The impact of metallicity on nova populations

Alex J. Kemp, Amanda I. Karakas, Andrew R. Casey, Chiaki Kobayashi, Robert G. Izzard

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The metallicity of a star affects its evolution in a variety of ways, changing stellar radii, luminosities, lifetimes, and remnant properties. In this work, we use the population synthesis code binary_c to study how metallicity affects novae in the context of binary stellar evolution. We compute a 16-point grid of metallicities ranging from $Z=10^{-4}$ to 0.03, presenting distributions of nova white dwarf masses, accretion rates, delay-times, and initial system properties at the two extremes of our 16-point metallicity grid. We find a clear anti-correlation between metallicity and the number of novae produced, with the number of novae at $Z=0.03$ roughly half that at $Z=10^{-4}$. The white dwarf mass distribution has a strong systematic variation with metallicity, while the shape of the accretion rate distribution is relatively insensitive. We compute a current nova rate of approximately 33 novae per year for the Milky Way, a result consistent with observational estimates relying on extra-Galactic novae but an under-prediction relative to observational estimates relying on Galactic novae. However, the shape of our predicted Galactic white dwarf mass distribution differs significantly to existing observationally derived distributions, likely due to our underlying physical assumptions. In M31, we compute a current nova rate of approximately 36 novae per year, under-predicting the most recent observational estimate of $65^{+15}_{-16}$. Finally, we conclude that when making predictions about currently observable nova rates in spiral galaxies, or stellar environments where star formation has ceased in the distant past, metallicity can likely be considered of secondary importance compared to uncertainties in binary stellar evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175–1193
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date28 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • astro-ph.SR
  • astro-ph.GA


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