Explosive lithium production in the classical nova V339 Del (Nova Delphini 2013)

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The origin of lithium (Li) and its production process have long been uncertain. Li could be produced by Big Bang nucleosynthesis, interactions of energetic cosmic rays with interstellar matter, evolved low-mass stars, novae, and supernova explosions. Chemical evolution models and observed stellar Li abundances suggest that at least half the Li may have been produced in red giants, asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, and novae1,2,3. No direct evidence, however, for the supply of Li from evolved stellar objects to the Galactic medium has hitherto been found. Here we report the detection of highly blue-shifted resonance lines of the singly ionized radioactive isotope of beryllium, 7Be, in the near-ultraviolet spectra of the classical nova V339 Del (Nova Delphini 2013) 38 to 48 days after the explosion. 7Be decays to form 7Li within a short time (half-life of 53.22 days4). The 7Be was created during the nova explosion via the alpha-capture reaction 3He(α,γ)7Be (ref. 5). This result supports the theoretical prediction that a significant amount of 7Li is produced in classical nova explosions.

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Figure 1: Blue-shifted absorption line systems in the spectrum of V339 Del obtained at day +47.
Figure 2: Time variations of the blue-shifted absorption line systems from day +38 to day +52.


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This work is based on data collected at the Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). We acknowledge with thanks the variable star observations from the AAVSO International Database contributed by observers worldwide and used in this research.

Author information

A.T. planned and carried out the Subaru High Dispersion Survey observations, reduced and analysed the data and prepared the manuscript. K.S., H.N., A.A., and W.A. participated in the discussion and contributed to the process of manuscript preparation.

Correspondence to Akito Tajitsu.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Optical light curves of V339 Del.

V (green) and R (red) magnitudes are taken from the AAVSO database. The epochs of our HDS observations are indicated by arrows.

Extended Data Figure 2 Optical spectrum of V339 Del obtained at +38 d.

a, The radial velocity plots of three Fe ii emission lines belonging to the same multiplet number30 (42). In addition to the similarity of their broad emission profiles, all lines have common blue-shifted absorption line features around vrad ≈ −1,000 km s−1. b, An enlarged view of the absorption line features in a. Dips of individual absorption line are indicated with dashed lines. c, The absorption line systems in H i Balmer lines drawn on the same velocity scale as in b.

Extended Data Figure 3 Near-ultraviolet spectrum of V339 Del obtained at day +38.

a, The overall view of the spectrum from 308 nm to 350 nm. Identified Fe ii emission lines are indicated with red ticks at the bottom. The identified absorption line systems originating from iron-group ions are indicated by coloured ticks at the top: Fe ii (red), Ti ii (blue), Cr ii (green), Mn ii, Ni ii, and V ii (black). b, A sample of the absorption line identification. The results of our identification are displayed along the spectrum. c, As for Extended Data Fig. 2b, but for two lines (Ti ii and Cr ii), highlighted in b, which are plotted on the velocity scale.

Extended Data Figure 4 Spectra in the vicinity of the Be ii doublet from day +38 to day +52.

ac, The horizontal scale is displayed with the heliocentric (bottom) and the Doppler-corrected wavelengths (top). The Doppler corrections are applied using vdays = v+38, v+47, and v+48 for panels a, b, and c, respectively. The local continuums, fitted with high-order (10–20) spline functions, are overplotted with green lines. The positions of the strongest (vrad = vdays) and the second-strongest components of the absorption line system are indicated by coloured long and short lines connected by horizontal bars. d, Since no apparent absorption lines are found in day +52, a Doppler correction using v+48 is applied to the spectrum.

Extended Data Table 1 Journal of HDS observations of V339 Del

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Tajitsu, A., Sadakane, K., Naito, H. et al. Explosive lithium production in the classical nova V339 Del (Nova Delphini 2013). Nature 518, 381–384 (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14161

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