EDP Sciences
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Volume 435, Number 1, May III 2005
Page(s) 167 - 175
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20042371

A&A 435, 167-175 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20042371

A multiwavelength study of the remnant of nova GK Persei

G. C. Anupama1 and N. G. Kantharia2

1  Indian Institute of Astrophysics, II Block Koramangala, Bangalore 560 034, India
    e-mail: gca@iiap.res.in
2  National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Post Bag 3, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411 007, India
    e-mail: ngk@ncra.tifr.res.in

(Received 16 November 2004 / Accepted 20 January 2005)

We present new observations of the nebular remnant of the old nova GK Persei 1901 in the optical using the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) and at low radio frequencies using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). The dimensions of the shell in the optical emission lines of [NII], [OIII] and [OII] are $108\times 94$ arcsec2, $104\times 94$ arcsec2 and $99\times 87$ arcsec2, respectively. The evolution of the nova remnant indicates shock interaction with the ambient medium, especially in the southwest quadrant. Application of a simple model for the shock and its evolution to determine the time dependence of the radius of the shell in the southwest quadrant indicates that the shell is now expanding into an ambient medium that has a density of 0.12 cm-3, compared to the density of the ambient medium of 0.8 cm-3 ahead of the shock in 1987. There are indications of a recent interaction of the nova remnant with the ambient medium in the northeast quadrant. There is a distinct flattening of the shell, as well as an increase in the number and brightness of the knots in the region. The brightest optical knots in this region are also detected in the radio images.

The nova remnant of GK Per is detected at all the observed radio frequencies and is of a similar extent to the optical remnant. Putting together our radio observations with VLA archival data on GK Per from 1997, we obtain three interesting results: 1. the spectrum above 1.4 GHz follows a power law with an index -0.7 ( $S\propto \nu^{\alpha}$) and below 1.4 GHz follows a power law with an index $\sim $-0.85. This could be due to the presence of at least two populations of electrons dominating the global emission at different frequencies; 2. we record an annual secular decrease of 2.1% in the flux density of the nova remnant at 1.4 and 4.9 GHz between 1984 and 1997 which has left the spectral index unchanged at -0.7. No such decrease is observed in the flux densities below 1 GHz; 3. we record an increase in the flux density at 0.33 GHz compared to the previous estimate in 1987. We conclude that the remnant of nova GK Per is similar to supernova remnants and in particular to the young supernova remnant Cas A.

Key words: novae, cataclysmic variables -- ISM: general

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