A Mystery in Chamaeleon: Serendipitous Discovery of a Galactic Symbiotic Nova

Lachlan Lancaster, Jenny E. Greene, Yuan Sen Ting, Sergey E. Koposov, Benjamin J.S. Pope, Rachael L. Beaton

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4 Scopus citations


We present the serendipitous discovery of a low optical-luminosity nova occurring in a D-type symbiotic binary star system in the Milky Way. We lay out the extensive archival data alongside new follow-up observations related to the stellar object CN Cha in the constellation of Chamaeleon. The object had long period (250 days), high amplitude (3 mag) optical variability in its recent past, preceding an increase in optical brightness by 8 magnitudes and a persistence at this brightness for about 3 yr, followed by a period of 1.4 mag yr-1 dimming. The object's current optical luminosity seems to be dominated by Hα emission, which also exhibits blueshifted absorption (a P-Cygni-like profile). After consideration of a number of theories to explain these myriad observations, we determine that CN Cha is most likely a symbiotic (an evolved-star-white-dwarf binary) system that has undergone a long-duration, low optical brightness, nova, placing it squarely in the class of so-called "slow novae,"of which there are only a few known examples. The duration of the optical plateau in CN Cha would make it the shortest timescale plateau of any known slow symbiotic novae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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