Published on Mon Apr 20 2020

AT 2016dah and AT 2017fyp: the first classical novae discovered within a tidal stream

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AT2016dah and AT2017fyp are fairly typical Andromeda Galaxy (M31) classical novae. AT2016dah is an almost text book example of a 'very fast' declining, yet uncommon, Fe II'b' (broad-lined) nova, discovered during the rise to peak optical luminosity, and decaying with a smooth broken power-law light curve. AT2017fyp is classed as a 'fast' nova, unusually for M31, its early decline spectrum simultaneously shows properties of both Fe II and He/N spectral types - a 'hybrid'. Similarly, the light curve of AT2017fyp has a broken power-law decline but exhibits an extended flat-topped maximum. Both novae were followed in the UV and X-ray by the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, but no X-ray source was detected for either nova. The pair were followed photometrically and spectroscopically into their nebular phases. The progenitor systems were not visible in archival optical data, implying that the mass donors are main sequence stars. What makes AT2016dah and AT2017fyp particularly interesting is their position with respect to M31. The pair are close on the sky but are located far from the centre of M31, lying almost along the semi-minor axis of their host. Radial velocity measurements and simulations of the M31 nova population leads to the conclusion that both novae are members of the Andromeda Giant Stellar Stream (GSS). We find the probability of at least two M31 novae appearing coincident with the GSS by chance is ~1%. Therefore, we claim that these novae arose from the GSS progenitor, not M31 - the first confirmed novae discovered in a tidal steam.