The <em>UBV</em> Color Evolution of Classical and Symbiotic Novae


  • I. Hachisu Department of Earth Science and Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Komaba, Meguroku, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan
  • M. Kato Department of Astronomy, Keio University, Hiyoshi, Kouhoku-ku, Yokohama 223-8521, Japan



We identified a general course of classical nova outbursts in the B − V vs. U − B diagram. It has been reported that novae show spectra similar to A–F supergiants near optical light maximum. However, they do not follow the supergiant sequence in the color-color diagram, neither the blackbody nor the main-sequence sequence. Instead, we found that novae evolve along a new sequence in the pre-maximum and near-maximum phases, which we call the nova-giant sequence. This sequence is parallel to but Δ(U − B) ≈ −0.2 mag bluer than the supergiant sequence. After optical maximum, its color quickly evolves back blueward along the same nova-giant sequence and reaches the point of free-free emission (B − V = −0.03, U − B = −0.97) and stays there for a while, which is coincident with the intersection of the blackbody sequence and the nova-giant sequence. Then the color evolves leftward (blueward in B − V but almost constant in U − B) due mainly to development of strong emission lines. This is the general course of nova outbursts in the color-color diagram, which is deduced from eight well-observed novae including various speed classes. For a nova with unknown extinction, we can determine a reliable value of the color excess by matching the observed track of the target nova with this general course. This is a new and convenient method for obtaining color excesses of classical novae. Using this method, we redetermined the color excesses of nineteen well-observed novae.