Department of Physics and Astronomy
Stony Brook University
7:30 pm; ESS Building, Room 001
Friday, September 07, 2018

The SMARTS way to observe: What recent observations tell us about galactic novae

Prof. Frederick Walter

In 2003 NOAO, the US national observatory divested itself of their small (i.e., meter-class) telescopes. The SMARTS consortium has operated these telescopes at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory since then. Unlike the classical observing mode of a few full nights at the telescope at infrequent intervals, SMARTS queue-scheduled observations afford the opportunity to obtain frequent observations of interesting targets.

Over the past 15 years I have invested a great deal of effort in observing and studying the galactic novae, which are thermonuclear runaways (hydrogen bombs) on the surfaces of white dwarf stars accreting gas from close companion stars. Novae are interesting not only because they explode, but because they are a common end state of low mass stars, because they form dust, and because they may be the source of the bulk of the Lithium found in the Galaxy.

Following introductions to SMARTS and to the novae, I shall use examples of recent bright novae to illustrate how high-cadence observations have changed our view of the nova explosions. This is publically-accessible science: I shall highlight how contributions made by amateur astronomers contribute to the field.

Prof. Walter, a resident of East Setauket, studies star birth, stellar weather (including stellar coronae), and star death using the Chandra and XMM-Newton X-ray observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, and telescopes in Arizona, Hawaii and Chile. He has been a professor of Astronomy at Stony Brook since 1989.

Nova research and SMARTS observations at Stony Brook are supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation, and by research support from Stony Brook University,