From X-ray dips to eclipse: Witnessing disk reformation in the recurrent nova U Sco

J. U. Ness, B. E. Schaefer, A. Dobrotka, A. Sadowski, J. J. Drake, R. Barnard, A. Talavera, R. Gonzalez-Riestra, K. L. Page, M. Hernanz, G. Sala, Sumner Starrfield

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40 Scopus citations


The tenth recorded outburst of the recurrent eclipsing nova USco was observed simultaneously in X-ray, UV, and optical by XMM-Newton on days 22.9 and 34.9 after the outburst. Two full passages of the companion in front of the nova ejecta were observed, as was the reformation of the accretion disk. On day 22.9, we observed smooth eclipses in UV and optical but deep dips in the X-ray light curve that disappeared by day 34.9, yielding clean eclipses in all bands. X-ray dips can be caused by clumpy absorbing material that intersects the line of sight while moving along highly elliptical trajectories. Cold material from the companion could explain the absence of dips in UV and optical light. The disappearance of X-ray dips before day 34.9 implies significant progress in the formation of the disk. The X-ray spectra contain photospheric continuum emission plus strong emission lines, but no clear absorption lines. Both continuum and emission lines in the X-ray spectra indicate a temperature increase from day 22.9 to day 34.9. We find clear evidence in the spectra and light curves for Thompson scattering of the photospheric emission from the white dwarf. Photospheric absorption lines can be smeared out during scattering in a plasma of fast electrons. We also find spectral signatures of resonant line scattering that lead to the observation of the strong emission lines. Their dominance could be a general phenomenon in high-inclination systems such as Cal87.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2012


  • novae, cataclysmic variables
  • stars: individual (U Sco)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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