A Detailed Photometric and Spectroscopic Study of the 2011 Outburst of the Recurrent Nova T Pyxidis from 0.8 to 250 Days after Discovery
We investigated the optical light curve of T Pyx during its 2011 outburst by compiling a database of Solar Mass Ejection Imager (SMEI) and AAVSO observations. The SMEI light curve, providing unprecedented detail covering t = 1.5-49 days post-discovery, was divided into four phases based on the idealized nova optical light curve: the initial rise (1.5-3.3 days), the pre-maximum halt (3.3-13.3 days), the final rise (14.7-27.9 days), and the early decline (27.9+ days). The SMEI light curve contains a strongly detected period of 1.44 ± 0.05 days during the pre-maximum halt phase. These oscillations resemble those found in recent thermonuclear runaway models arising from instabilities in the expanding envelope. No spectral variations that mirror the light curve periodicity were found, however. The marked dip at t ~ 22-24 days just before the light curve maximum at t = 27.9 days may represent the same (shorter duration) phenomenon seen in other novae observed by SMEI and present in some model light curves. The spectra from the 2 m Liverpool Telescope and SMARTS 1.5 m telescope were obtained from t = 0.8-80.7 and 155.1-249.9 days, covering the major phases of development. The nova was observed very early in its rise where a distinct high-velocity ejection phase was evident with initially derived V ej ~ 4000 km s-1. A marked drop occurred at t = 5.7 days, and then a gradual increase in derived V ej to stabilize at ~1500 km s-1 at the pre-maximum halt. Here, we propose two different stages of mass loss, a short-lived phase occurring immediately after outburst and lasting ~6 days, followed by a more steadily evolving and higher mass loss phase. The overall spectral development follows that typical of a classical nova and comparison with the photometric behavior reveals consistencies with the simple evolving pseudo-photosphere model of the nova outburst. Comparing optical spectra to X-ray and radio light curves, weak [Fe X] 6375 Å emission was marginally detected before the X-ray rise and was clearly present during the brightest phase of X-ray emission. If the onset of the X-ray phase and the start of the final decline in the optical are related to the cessation of significant mass loss, then this occurred at t ~ 90-110 days.
The Astronomical Journal
- Pub Date:
- May 2014
- stars: individual: T Pyxidis;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 59 pages, 23 figures, 4 tables, accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal