Dwarf novae are white dwarfs accreting matter from a nearby red dwarf companion. Their regular outbursts are explained by a thermal-viscous instability in the accretion disc, described by the disc instability model that has since been successfully extended to other accreting systems. However, the prototypical dwarf nova, SS Cygni, presents a major challenge to our understanding of accretion disc theory. At the distance of 159 ± 12 parsecs measured by the Hubble Space Telescope, it is too luminous to be undergoing the observed regular outbursts. Using very long baseline interferometric radio observations, we report an accurate, model-independent distance to SS Cygni that places the source substantially closer at 114 ± 2 parsecs. This reconciles the source behavior with our understanding of accretion disc theory in accreting compact objects.
- Pub Date:
- May 2013
- ASTRONOMY Astronomy, Applied-Physics, Sociology;
- Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
- 21 pages (8 as Supplementary Material), 3 figures (1 in the Supplementary Material). This is the authors' version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Science in Vol. 340 no. 6135 on 24 May 2013