The formation of 26Al in nova explosions

Irit Nofar, Giora Shaviv, Sumner Starrfield

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54 Scopus citations


The amount of 26Al in the interstellar medium, which has been detected both by the HEAO 3 γ-ray spectrometer and the SMM experiment, in combination with the measured overabundance of 26Mg in meteorites, is predicted to have been produced by nucleosynthesis in nova explosions. To test this prediction, we have investigated the nucleosynthesis of 26Al during hot hydrogen burning along temperature-density-time profiles obtained from hydrodynamic simulations of nova outbursts. We find that we can predict the yield of 26Al if we characterize the thermonuclear runaway by means of two parameters: (1) the peak temperature and (2) the time required by the nova to reach peak temperature. We provide yields of 26Al in terms of these parameters. We have also found that the yield of 26Al is directly proportional to the abundances of the heavy elements so that about 20% of the initial 24Mg is converted into 26Al. Therefore, we are also able to show that the dominant contributor of 26Al to the Galaxy must be novae which occur on oxygen-neon-magnesium white dwarfs. However, we also find that the class of novae that should be the most important contributors to Galactic nucleosynthesis of 26Al may not have been discovered but must exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-450
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 1991


  • Nucleosynthesis
  • Stars: novae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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