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Nova 1670 Vulpeculae, CK Vulpeculae

Nova in Vulpecula

Right Ascension 19 : 47.6 (h:m)
Declination +27 : 19 (deg:m)
Distance 1800 (ly)
Visual brightness 2.6 (mag, max)

This nova in constellation Vulpecula was discovered by Pere Dom Voiture Anthelme (ca. 1618 - Dec 14, 1683), a Carthusian monk in Dijon, France, on June 20, 1670. He discovered it as a star of about 3rd magnitude. It was independently noted by Johannes Hevelius (1611 - 1689) from Danzig on July 25, 1670. The nova faded from visibility until October, 1670, but had a second maximum in 1671, when again Anthelme recovered it on March 17. It reached about mag 2.6 on or about April 30, 1671, and was observed by Hevelius and Giovanni Cassini through late spring and summer of that year until it faded from naked-eye view in late August. Hevelius found it again brightening in March 1672, and could observe it until May 22, 1672, but that year it was just hardly observable (mag 5.5 to 6) and did not brighten again to its previous brilliance. Unfortunately, besides some very detailed brightness observations, little is recorded of this nova, especially no hint to its color appearance.

The remnant of Nova 1670 Vulpeculae was found by Shara and Moffat in 1982 (also Shara, Moffat, and Webbink 1985), 312 years after its historic outburst. They found that associated with a central object, there are two nebulous blobs radiating mostly in H Alpha and [N II] lines, and derive a distance of about 550 +/- 150 pc, standing in or behind an obscurring cloud of interstellar matter. Formerly, Milton Humason in 1938 had looked in vain for this remnant on the blue POSS photographic plates.

There is some evidence that CK Vulpeculae may be not a nova, but some other type of cataclysmic variable star, which is supported by its very high amplitude of 18 magnitudes between current minimal (normal ?) and maximal (outburst) brightness. According to Duerbeck, it might be an object similar to the peculiar slow "nova" V605 Aql (Nova Aql 1919); this was shown by Seitter (1987) to be well modelled by a final helium flash on the surface of a forming central star of a planetary nebula.


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Hartmut Frommert
Christine Kronberg