NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011B-0044

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Proposal Information for 2011B-0044


PI: Howard E. Bond, Space Telescope Science Institute, bond@stsci.edu
Address: 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA

Title: SMARTS Monitoring of the Exotic Variable Star V838 Monocerotis

Abstract: In recent years, a new class of luminous red stellar transients has been discovered, having maximum brightnesses between those of novae and supernovae. The prototype is the Galactic star V838 Monocerotis, whose 2002 outburst illuminated a spectacular light echo, extensively imaged by \it HST \null. Polarimetric imaging of the echo with \it HST has yielded a geometric distance of 6.2 kpc, making V838 Mon at maximum intermediate in luminosity between a classical nova and a subluminous Type II SN\null. Possibly related intermediate-luminosity red transients have been discovered recently in the nearby galaxies M31, NGC 300 (two such transients), M85, M99, and NGC 6946. I am currently organizing a workshop on this new class, to be held at STScI in June. Unlike a nova, V838 Mon remained a luminous red supergiant throughout its outburst. Recently, the slowly expanding dusty photosphere of V838 Mon has ingested a B-type companion star, leading to spectacular photometric and spectroscopic variability. X rays were detected at that time, but it remains unclear whether these were related to the interaction with the B star, or were due to flaring on a rotating merged binary. I propose to continue to monitor V838 Mon using synoptic service observing with the SMARTS 1.3m (photometry) and 1.5m (spectroscopy) telescopes.


National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, Arizona 85726, Phone: (520) 318-8000, Fax: (520) 318-8360



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