Novae and Recurrent Novae

  • Martin Mobberley
Part of the Astronomers' Observing Guides book series (OBSERVING)


Novae were, for many years, the most prestigious stellar objects that an amateur astronomer could hope to discover. Indeed, only finding a comet, which bears the name of the discoverer, carried more kudos. Yet, essentially, a nova is simply an extreme form of cataclysmic variable (CV). Like dwarf novae and Type Ia supernovae, a binary system incorporating a hot white dwarf and a cooler secondary star is involved. In this case the secondary star can be a giant, subgiant, or dwarf star of spectral class K–M.

The IAU lists a total of 370 nonrecurring novae discovered since 1612. The orbital period of the binary system in a nova can range from that of the dwarf novae, that is, mere hours, to hundreds of days. The increase in brightness during a nova outburst is greater than that of a dwarf nova outburst, and you cannot expect to see the same star as a nova again, at least not with a so-called ‘classical’ nova.

So what happens when a nova appears in our skies? We have already seen, in...


White Dwarf Variable Star Cataclysmic Variable Secondary Star Dwarf Nova 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Mobberley
    • 1
  1. 1.UK

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