A Hubble Space Telescope survey for novae in M87 – III. Are novae good standard candles 15 d after maximum brightness? Academic Article uri icon

  • Overview
  • Research
  • Identity
  • Additional Document Info
  • View All


  • Ten weeks of daily imaging of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has yielded 41 nova light curves of unprecedented quality for extragalactic cataclysmic variables. We have recently used these light curves to demonstrate that the observational scatter in the so-called Maximum-Magnitude Rate of Decline (MMRD) relation for classical novae is so large as to render the nova-MMRD useless as a standard candle. Here we demonstrate that a modified Buscombe - de Vaucouleurs hypothesis, namely that novae with decline times t2 > 10 days converge to nearly the same absolute magnitude about two weeks after maximum light in a giant elliptical galaxy, is supported by our M87 nova data. For 13 novae with daily-sampled light curves, well determined times of maximum light in both the F606W and F814W filters, and decline times $t2 > 10 days we find that M87 novae display M(606W,15) = -6.37 +/- 0.46 and M(814W,15) = -6.11 +/- 0.43. If very fast novae with decline times t2 < 10 days are excluded, the distances to novae in elliptical galaxies with stellar binary populations similar to those of M87 should be determinable with 1 sigma accuracies of +/-20% with the above calibrations.


  • Shara, Michael M
  • Doyle, Trisha F
  • Pagnotta, Ashley
  • Garland, James T
  • Lauer, Tod R
  • Zurek, David
  • Baltz, Edward A
  • Goerl, Ariel
  • Kovetz, Attay
  • Machac, Tamara
  • Madrid, Juan P
  • Mikołajewska, Joanna
  • Neill, JD
  • Prialnik, Dina
  • Welch, Douglas L
  • Yaron, Ofer

publication date

  • February 21, 2018