MSU Astronomers confirm shockwave theory for nova behavior

A nova is a type of stellar explosion resulting from instabilities of matter which has accumulated on the surfaces of super-dense white dwarf stars. Some fraction of these nova explosions has defied standard explanations for how the level of brightness observed is produced - they are too bright for explosive mechanisms previously known.

A recent theory proposed by Columbia University astronomer Brian Metzger of the contributions of shockwaves to the brightness level of these unusual novae has gotten support from the observations and analysis of a recently discovered nova of this type called ASASSN-16ma performed by a research team including MSU faculty members Laura Chomiuk and Jay Strader along with post-doctoral research associate Kwan-Lok Li and graduate student Thomas Finzell, joining with researchers from several other universities and astronomical organizations.

The observations were made by Ohio State University's All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae, NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, and a group of telescopes whose observation time was contributed by the American Association of Variable Star Observers. They spanned several wavelength bands over a sufficient period of time to show the development of energy emissions consistent with production in a shockwave caused by the interaction of a surface explosion with layers of material ejected in earlier stages of the nova's development.

For more information, see this MSU Today article.