EDP Sciences
Free access
Issue
A&A
Volume 389, Number 2, July II 2002
Page(s) L51 - L56
Section Letters
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20020715


A&A 389, L51-L56 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20020715

Letter

The mysterious eruption of V838 Mon

U. Munari1, A. Henden2, S. Kiyota3, D. Laney4, F. Marang4, T. Zwitter5, R. L. M. Corradi6, S. Desidera1, P. M. Marrese1, E. Giro1, F. Boschi1 and M. B. Schwartz7

1  INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Sede di Asiago, 36012 Asiago (VI), Italy
2  Univ. Space Research Ass./U. S. Naval Observatory, PO Box 1149, Flagstaff AZ 86002-1149, USA
3  VSOLJ, 1-401-810 Azuma, Tsukuba 305-0031 Japan
4  South African Astronomical Observatory, PO Box 9, Observatory 7935, South Africa
5  University of Ljubljana, Department of Physics, Jadranska 19, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
6  Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Apartado de Correos 321, 38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canarias, Spain
7  Tenagra Observatory, HC2 Box 292 Nogales, AZ 85621, USA

(Received 12 April 2002 / Accepted 16 May 2002 )

Abstract
V838 Mon is marking one of the most mysterious stellar outbursts on record. The spectral energy distribution of the progenitor resembles an under-luminous F main sequence star (at V=15.6 mag), that erupted into a cool supergiant following a complex and multi-maxima lightcurve (peaking at V=6.7 mag). The outburst spectrum show BaII, LiI and lines of several s-elements, with wide P-Cyg profiles and a moderate and retracing emission in the Balmer lines. A light-echo discovered expanding around the object helped to constrain the distance ( $d=790 \pm 30$ pc), providing MV=+4.45 in quiescence and MV=-4.35 at optical maximum (somewhat dependent on the still uncertain EB-V=0.5 reddening). The general outburst trend is toward lower temperatures and larger luminosities, and continuing so at the time of writing. The object properties conflict with a classification within already existing categories: the progenitor was not on a post-AGB track and thus the similarities with the born-again AGB stars FG Sge, V605 Aql and Sakurai's object are limited to the cool giant spectrum at maximum; the cool spectrum, the moderate wind velocity (500 km s -1 and progressively reducing) and the monotonic decreasing of the low ionization condition argues against a classical nova scenario. The closest similarity is with a star that erupted into an M-type supergiant discovered in M 31 by Rich et al. (1989), that became however much brighter by peaking at MV=-9.95, and with V4332 Sgr that too erupted into an M-type giant (Martini et al. 1999) and that attained a lower luminosity, closer to that of V838 Mon. M 31-RedVar, V4332 Sgr and V838 Mon could be all manifestations of a new class of astronomical objects.


Key words: stars: supergiants -- stars: novae -- stars: individual: V838 Mon -- stars: mass-loss -- ISM: jets and outflows

Offprint request: U. Munari, munari@pd.astro.it

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