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Similarities between Stunted Outbursts in Novalike Cataclysmic Variables and Outbursts in

Ordinary Dwarf Novae


Author(s): R.K.Honeycutt
Source: Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. 113, No. 782 (April 2001),
pp. 473-481
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
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Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 113:473481, 2001 April


2001. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.

Similarities between Stunted Outbursts in Nova-like Cataclysmic Variables


and Outbursts in Ordinary Dwarf Novae
R. K. Honeycutt
Astronomy Department, Indiana University, Swain Hall West, Bloomington, IN 47405; honey@astro.indiana.edu
Received 2000 November 19; accepted 2001 January 8

ABSTRACT. Stunted outbursts have been reported in old novae and nova-like cataclysmic variables by
Honeycutt, Robertson, and Turner. These 0.41 mag outbursts were concluded to be either mass transfer events
or disk outbursts similar to dwarf nova eruptions, but seen under unusual conditions. Honeycutt, Robertson, and
Turner did not have enough evidence to favor either of these possibilities. This paper uses additional long-term
photometry and analysis to argue that the similarities of these stunted outbursts to dwarf nova eruptions are now
so numerous that the dwarf nova outburst choice is strongly favored. The similarities discussed here include the
range of outburst spacings, the coherence and stability of the outbursts, and the presence of isolated outburst/
dip pairs. As part of this discussion we note the presence of unexpectedly stable clocks over 9 years for the
repetition interval of dwarf nova outbursts in SY Cnc and of stunted outbursts in FY Per.

plored, including mass transfer events as well as thermal disk


instabilities seen under unusual circumstances. However, the
authors did not have enough evidence to establish any explanation as favored among those proffered. In this paper, using
additional data and analysis, it is argued that the similarities
of stunted outbursts in NLCVs to DN outbursts are now so
numerous that stunted outbursts must almost surely be due to
DN-type disk instabilities. It is further argued that stunted outbursts may be outbursts of normal DN amplitude, seen against
a brighter background source that makes them appear of smaller
amplitude.
Except for the AAVSO data on Z Cam, the light curves
presented here were acquired by RoboScope (Honeycutt &
Turner 1992), an unattended 0.41 m telescope in central Indiana
that is devoted to long-term photometric monitoring of accretion systems. The data was reduced using the method of incomplete ensemble photometry (Honeycutt 1992). The average
RoboScope error for these light curves is 0.010.02 mag. For
clarity the error bars are not plotted on the light curves.

1. INTRODUCTION
Cataclysmic variables (CVs) typically consist of a red dwarf/
white dwarf pair in which the red dwarf is losing gas to the
white dwarf via Roche lobe overflow (Warner 1995a). The
accretion luminosity usually dominates in the visual part of the
spectrum, making CVs important laboratories for the physics
of stellar accretion. Dwarf novae (DNs) are a subclass of CVs
in which an accretion disk surrounding the white dwarf undergoes regular eruptions due to a thermal instability in the
disk (Cannizzo 1993). This instability occurs only in a restricted
range of disk temperatures (and hence in a restricted range of
from the red dwarf) over which partially
mass transfer rates M
ionized hydrogen controls the thermal structure of the disk. At
, hydrogen
the higher disk temperatures provided by a larger M
is nearly fully ionized in the relevant portions of the disk, and
accretion takes place under steady state conditions without DN
outbursts. Therefore we do not expect DN behavior in systems
1M
crit.
with M
1M

Systems with M
crit are identified observationally as
nova-like CVs (NLCVs). (Most classical novae observed decades after the nova outburst are similar spectroscopically and
photometrically to NLCVs, and we will make no distinction
between the two types in this paper.) As expected, NLCVs are
found to be brighter on average (by 3 mag) than DN-type
CVs at the same orbital period (Warner 1995a).
In a decade-long monitoring program of about 70 NLCVs,
Honeycutt, Robertson & Turner (1998, hereafter HRT98) reported that a significant fraction displayed stunted outbursts.
These 0.41.0 mag events have spacings and widths characteristic of DN outbursts but are of much smaller amplitude.
Several candidate explanations for stunted outbursts were ex-

2. COMPARISON OF OUTBURST TYPES


The morphology of DN outbursts is rich and complex. Excluding superoutbursts that occur in the SU UMatype DN
(probably due to a tidal, not thermal, disk instability; Osaki
1989), DN outbursts can be broadly classified according to
mean outburst spacing. For other parameters being equal, the
. Typical DN outoutburst spacing decreases with increasing M

burst widths are 320 days. At low M the outbursts are spaced
approaches
at intervals of many times their mean width. As M

Mcrit, the spacing decreases until the duty cycle becomes 100%
(Lin, Papaloizou, & Faulkner 1985). At this stage the outbursts
473

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474 HONEYCUTT

Fig. 1.Stunted continuous outbursts or oscillations at about 25 days in


DI Lac (1993 May1993 December) and in RW Tri (1992 July1993 February). Points closer than 8 days are connected by straight lines for DI Lac.
Points in eclipse are omitted from the RW Tri light curve. The sine curve
superposed on the RW Tri data is a least-squares fit to the first half of the
displayed data, which is then extrapolated over the latter half of the data. The
fitted parameters give a period of 25.1 0.2 days and a peak-to-peak amplitude
of 0.45 mag.

have the approximate appearance of a continuous sine wave.


crit small changes in M
can carry the star back and
Very near M
forth across the instability boundary, leading to a Z Camtype
dwarf nova (Meyer & Meyer-Hofmeister 1983). In Z Camtype
CVs the DN outbursts occasionally cease, leading to a steady
standstill that might last weeks to years. At later times the star
drifts back below M
crit.
returns to outbursting behavior as M
As expected, the DN outbursts in Z Cam systems are usually
rapid with near 100% duty cycle (Warner 1995b). Furthermore,
Z Cam stars during standstill are brighter than their mean
brightness when they are experiencing DN outbursts (Honeycutt et al. 1998b). Taken together, these two observational characteristics of Z Cam stars provide confidence that this picture
is fundamentally correct. Another relatively common behavior
of Z Cam stars (although not well documented in the literature)
is a single outburst/dip pair, having the appearance of a single
cycle of oscillation, that occurs during a momentary lapse from
standstill.
Examples of spaced stunted outbursts which appear to be
analogous to the larger amplitude spaced outbursts in dwarf
novae were presented and discussed in HRT98. That material
will not be repeated here. Rather, in this paper we add several
examples of small continuous outbursts (or oscillations) to the
morphology of stunted outbursts and also add a discussion of
outburst/dip pairs seen in NLCVs.

Fig. 2.Periodograms over the period interval 5100 days for seven old
novae and NLCVs, plus three dwarf novae. The input data in each case are
9.5 year light curves from RoboScope. Before producing these periodograms,
eclipse points were removed from the light curves of SW Sex, BH Lyn, and
RW Tri, and the low states were removed from FY Per.

2.1. Continuous Outbursts or Oscillations


The continuous stunted outbursts reported here have, for the
most part, an erratic character similar to that reported (HRT98)
for more widely spaced stunted outbursts. That is, they are
rather obvious when present but sometimes cease or are obscured by the common stochastic variations present in many
NLCVs. The typical oscillation period for continuous stunted
outbursts in NLCVs is found to be 1550 days, and enhanced
periodogram power is often present near 1550 days even when
the oscillations cannot easily be seen by eye.
Figure 1 shows a portion of the light curve of DI Lac (pNova
Lac 1910) from 19931994 and a portion of the light curve of
RW Tri from 19921993. In both cases 0.5 mag oscillations
at about 25 days are clearly present, although the sampling is
not as complete as desired. This behavior in RW Tri was first
described in Honeycutt et al. (1994), and the DI Lac oscillations
are more fully described in Hoard et al. (2000). For RW Tri
a sine wave fit was made to the first 6 cycles of the data in
Figure 1, giving P p 25.1 0.2 days with a full amplitude of
0.45 mag. The coherence interval appears to be at least 150 days
(or 6 cycles). Although the oscillations continue beyond this
interval, the phasing of this 25 day period becomes progressively
worse over the extrapolation.
Extra power near 25 days is also present in other years for
RW Tri, as seen in the periodogram for 9 years of RW Tri

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OUTBURSTS IN NOVA-LIKE CVs AND DWARF NOVAE 475

Fig. 3.RoboScope light curve of the NLCV FY Per from 1990 November
to 1999 November showing large faintward excursions as well as oscillations
in the high state with an amplitude of 0.7 mag and a typical period of 32 days.

photometry in Figure 2. These examples of CV periodograms


were produced using the method of Horne & Baliunas (1986).
The top seven periodograms in Figure 2 are for NLCVs and
the bottom three for dwarf novae, all using RoboScope data
obtained over about 9 years. The top two NLCVs (SW Sex
and BH Lyn) are included as examples of systems for which
oscillations are not present, where we see the power evenly
distributed over the range 5100 days. Most of the 70 NLCVs
on the RoboScope program have this character, often with large
stochastic variations over a wide frequency range; only
20%25% have discernible stunted outbursts or oscillations.
In about 50% of the NLCVs on the RoboScope program,
stunted outbursts would be very difficult to spot even if present
because of the background noise of larger amplitude random
variations. Therefore, the fraction of NLCV systems having
stunted outbursts could approach 50%. For the old novae and
nova-like CVs V841 Oph (N Oph 1848), GI Mon (N Mon
1918), CT Ser (N Ser 1948), RW Tri, and FY Per in Figure 2
we see that most of excess power is in the interval 1550 days.
Also shown for comparison in Figure 2 are periodograms of
three DNs with frequent DN eruptions (SS Cyg, HX Peg, and
SY Cnc), again from RoboScope data. Dwarf novae typically
have reliable repetitive outbursts that are not strictly periodic.
In Figure 2 the distributions of power for the eruptions of the
three DNs and for the five NLCVs having stunted outbursts
are seen to be quite similar.
The most reliable of the oscillating NLCVs is FY Per. Figure
3 shows the 19901999 light curve. The scatter between mag-

Fig. 4.Spectrum of FY Per obtained 1993 July 26 (UT) at KPNO using


,
the GoldCam spectrograph on the 2.1 m telescope. The resolution is 3.5 A
and the continuum slope has been removed. Ha is in emission. The other
strong absorption features are Balmer lines, He i, and Na D.

nitudes 12 and 13 are the oscillations, and several excursions


to fainter levels are also present. Quasi-periodicity in the range
2030 days has been reported before in FY Per by Sazonov
& Shugarov (1992) and by Watanabe & Maehara (2000). The
classification of FY Per as a cataclysmic variable has been
questioned by Okazaki (1993) but our spectrum obtained at
Kitt Peak on 1993 July 26 (UT), shown in Figure 4, is consistent
with an NLCV having an optically thick disk, probably seen
at low inclination. Ha is in emission, and the higher Balmer
lines also have weak central reversals. This FY Per spectrum
appears quite similar to a 1993 December spectrum shown in
Downes et al. (1995), where a short history of this poorly
studied CV can be found. The occasional VY Scltype low
states seen in Figure 3 would seem to make the CV classification of FY Per secure, as well as the similarity of the oscillations to other NLCV behavior. Figure 5 is an expanded
portion of the light curve in Figure 3 surrounding the wellresolved low state that occurred over a 2 week interval in 1995
November/December.
The outbursts in FY Per can sometimes be spaced so closely
as to appear continuous, as seen in the top panel of Figure 6,
and sometimes spaced at intervals of about 50 days, as seen
in the bottom panel. This behavior is confirmed in the series
of periodograms of the FY Per light curves arranged by observing season, shown in Figure 7. While the power remains
concentrated between 15 and 50 days, the patterns and peaks
can be strikingly different from year to year. The top period-

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476 HONEYCUTT

Fig. 5.Expanded portion of the FY Per light curve of Fig. 3 showing a


2.2 mag low state lasting about 2 weeks in 1995 November/December. Data
points spaced more closely than 5 days are connected by straight lines.

ogram of Figure 7 is for the full 9.5 year observing interval.


This periodogram was produced using the full data set, not by
averaging the yearly periodograms. There is a strong narrow
peak at 32.45 days which can be seen more clearly in the
expanded periodogram view of Figure 8.
The appearance of this periodogram peak in FY Per at

Fig. 7.Periodogram of FY Per from 5 to 100 days for each of 9 seasons


plus (top) for the full 9 year light curve. Each periodogram is offset by 0.5
units of normalized power. For clarity the power in the top periodogram has
been multiplied by 4.

32.45 days is surprising because it is not prominent in the yearly


periodograms and because it implies an unexpected long-term
stability in the outburst spacing. Figure 9 shows the full
9.5 year light curve of FY Per (with the low states removed)
folded on the 32.45 day period. While some outbursts clearly
are at variance with this periodic behavior, this coherence at
32.45 days is not totally washed out by phase drift or large
phase jitter over these 106 cycles. In Figure 2 we see that the
outbursts in the Z Camtype DN SY Cnc over 9.5 years produce a periodogram peak similar to that of FY Per. (The
amplitude of the outbursts in SY Cnc are larger than in
FY Per, having a typical full amplitude of 2.0 mag as compared
to 0.7 mag in FY Per.) Figure 10 shows the 9.5 year light curve
of SY Cnc folded on its periodogram peak of 26.50 days. The
phasing of the outbursts in SY Cnc remain mostly coherent
over 130 cycles. Regardless of the mechanism or significance
of this unexpected coherence, it does represent an additional
similarity of stunted OBs in NLCV to DN eruptions.
2.2. Outburst/Dip Pairs

Fig. 6.Expanded portions of the FY Per light curve of Fig. 3, showing


continuous stunted outbursts in 19931994 (top) and spaced stunted outbursts
in 19961997 (bottom). Points closer than 5 days are connected by straight
lines.

Some stunted outburst/dip pairs in NLCVs were noted in


HRT98. Figures 11 and 12 show four such pairs which bear a
strong resemblance to outburst/dip pairs of much larger amplitude that are occasionally seen in Z Camtype dwarf novae.
Figures 13 and 14 show examples of large-amplitude outburst/
dip pairs in the Z Cam-type systems AH Her, HX Peg, and
Z Cam itself. The Z Cam light curve is AAVSO data from

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OUTBURSTS IN NOVA-LIKE CVs AND DWARF NOVAE 477

Fig. 8.Periodogram of FY Per from 2 to 100 days for 9 years of data.


The inset plot is an expanded view of the region near the 32.45 day peak.
The flanking peaks seen in the inset plot are mostly yearly and multiyear
aliases of the 32 day peak.

Honeycutt et al. (1998b). There appears to be little difference


between stunted outburst/dip pairs in NLCVs and outburst/dip
pairs in Z Cam systems, except for the amplitude. The amplitudes in the NLCVs are 0.61 mag while they are 13 mag in
Z Cam systems.

Fig. 9.The 9 year FY Per light curve of Fig. 3, for data brighter than
V p 13, is folded on the periodogram peak at 32.45 days and shown as small
dots. For clarity the data are repeated to make 1.5 cycles. The large filled
circles with error bars are data averaged in phase bins 0.05 phase units wide.
The error bars are the standard deviations of the mean.

tude that have been attenuated by the presence of a relatively


constant background light source in the system. In the bottom
three panels of Figure 15 we show the conjectured parent distribution of amplitudes for the stunted outbursts in Table 1, assuming background sources that are 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 mag

2.3. Similarities in Outburst Strengths


Stunted outbursts have substantially different mean amplitude than normal DN outbursts, which is of course their primary
defining characteristic. Nevertheless, some other amplitude
properties are in common.
There is usually significantly less scatter among the amplitudes of stunted outbursts in a given NLCV than the scatter in
mean amplitude from system to system. This is particularly
apparent for the continuous outbursting systems such as
FY Per and DI Lac. Also, Q Cyg has spaced outbursts that are
of relatively uniform amplitude. This behavior is a well-known
characteristic of DN outbursts, each DN system having a characteristic mean outburst amplitude that can vary greatly from
system to system.
The top panel of Figure 15 shows the distribution of stunted
outburst amplitudes from Table 1. The next panel shows
the amplitude distribution of dwarf nova outbursts from
Warner (1995a), using only U Gem and Z Camtype DN.
(SU UMatype DN were omitted because of the presence of
superoutbursts.) In HRT98 it was hypothesized that stunted outbursts in NLCVs are DN-type eruptions of conventional ampli-

Fig. 10.The 9.5 year light curve of the Z Camtype dwarf nova SY Cnc,
folded on its periodogram peak in Fig. 2 of 26.50 days. Points with error bars
are averages as in Fig. 9.

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478 HONEYCUTT

Fig. 11.Stunted outburst/dip pairs in RW Sex (1994 February1994 May)


and in Q Cyg (1993 January1993 September). Points closer than
5 days are connected by straight lines.

brighter than the dwarf nova in quiescence. The mean amplitude


is best matched to the DN distribution for 3.5 0.5 mag of
background light. Although there is considerable scatter, Figure
9.8 of Warner (1995a) shows that, at the same orbital period,
NLCVs are about 3 mag brighter than DNs. This could be coincidence, but it does show that the conjectured extra light needed
to produce stunted outbursts from DN outbursts is consistent

Fig. 12.Stunted outburst/dip pairs in CP Lac (1993 May1993 December)


and V825 Her (1994 April1994 June). Points closer than 5 days are connected
by straight lines.

Fig. 13.Isolated outburst/dip pairs in the Z Cam star AH Her (1995 February1995 June). Points closer than 5 days are connected by straight lines.

with the extra light in NLCVs that makes them more luminous
than DNs. Another way of looking at this relationship is that the
total energy of a typical stunted outburst is about the same as
the total energy of dwarf nova eruption, because the smaller
amplitude (in mag) stunted outbursts are seen against a brighter
source. This is a firm similarity between stunted outbursts and
DN outbursts and holds regardless of the validity of any hypotheses regarding the existence and nature of extra light.
The widths of the parent distributions in the bottom three
panels of Figure 15 are less than the DN distribution width by
about a factor of 2. This could reasonably be taken as an
important evidence against the idea of extra light being responsible for stunted outbursts. However, the distribution of
the amplitudes of stunted outbursts could be made more narrow
by some combination of the following effects: (1) The distribution of amplitudes of DN eruptions is from well-sampled
data, usually dozens of visual observers. However, the distribution of amplitudes of stunted outbursts is from more poorly
sampled RoboScope data, where the peak of the outburst is
sometimes missed. (2) Low-amplitude stunted outbursts could
be missed entirely in the RoboScope data, narrowing the apparent distribution. (3) Z Cam systems broaden the DN distribution because their amplitudes are systematically smaller
than those in U Gem systems. However, Z Cam systems are
brighter than U Gem systems at the same orbital period. Being
brighter, a Z Cam system could compete more effectively
against a constant background source, so their amplitudes
would not be attenuated as effectively. This effect could also
narrow the amplitude distribution of the stunted outbursts
compared to DNs.

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OUTBURSTS IN NOVA-LIKE CVs AND DWARF NOVAE 479

Fig. 14.Isolated outburst/dip pairs in the Z Cam stars HX Peg (1995


July1995 October) and Z Cam (1981 July1981 December). The HX Peg
data are from RoboScope, and the Z Cam data are from the AAVSO. Points
closer than 5 days are connected by straight lines. The outburst/dip pairs in
Figs. 13 and 14 are similar to the stunted outburst/dip pairs in Figs. 11 and
12 but are of larger conventional dwarf nova amplitude in the Z Cam stars.

2.4. Summary of the Similarities


Table 1 summarizes the characteristics of stunted outbursts
detected by RoboScope. The data are from HRT98, updated
by a few new detections of spaced outbursts, plus the information on continuous stunted outbursts and outburst/dip pairs
from this paper. Column (2) denotes nova-like or old nova type,
column (3) is the number of outbursts measured, column (4)
is the mean amplitude, column (5) is the typical spacing in
days for spaced outbursts, column (6) gives the period in days
for continuous outbursts, and column (7) is the mean full width
at half-maximum (FWHM) in days for spaced outbursts. For
continuous outbursts the mean FWHM is approximately half
the period. Two systems have, at various times, both spaced
outbursts and continuous oscillations.
It is seen that stunted outbursts in NLCVs have a range of
widths and spacings that are similar to those of DNs, differing
only in mean amplitude. Most of the phenomenology of DN
outbursts, particularly those of Z Cam systems, are seen to be
represented among the stunted outbursts. This includes spaced
outbursts, continuous outbursts, and isolated outburst/dip pairs.
Like DN eruptions, each NLCV having stunted outbursts appears to have its own characteristic amplitude, which differs
from star to star. The periodograms of stunted outbursts and
DN eruptions are similar, with most of the power between 15
and 50 days. The coherence and stability of the recurrence
intervals of stunted OBs have properties similar to those of

Fig. 15.Comparison of the distributions of outburst amplitudes for stunted


outbursts in NLCVs and eruptions in dwarf novae. (a) The observed stunted
outburst amplitude distribution from Table 1. (b) The observed dwarf nova
outburst amplitude distribution from Warner (1995a). (c), (d), and (e) show
parent distributions of the stunted outburst amplitudes from Table 1, calculated
assuming constant background sources that are 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 mag brighter
than the parent quiescence brightness. The best match to the dwarf nova
distribution is for a background source that adds 3.5 mag of light to the parent
quiescence magnitude.

DNs, including unexpected coherence over 100 cycles for at


least one system with stunted outbursts and one system with
DN outbursts. Finally, it is noted that NLCVs are more luminous on average than DNs (at the same orbital period) by
about 3 mag. The total energy of a 0.7 mag OB in a NLCV
is therefore not very different from a typical 3.5 mag outburst
on a DN that is 3 mag fainter. This similarity in total energy
between stunted outbursts in NLCV and DN eruptions completes a rather compelling set of similarities that argues in favor
of stunted outbursts being due to the familiar thermal disk
instability, just as in dwarf novae.
2.5. Discussion
This paper argues that, among the various possibilities discussed in HRT98 for the nature of stunted outbursts, additional
observations now favor an accretion disk instability seen under
unusual circumstances. That circumstance may be an extra
source of light which diminishes the apparent amplitude of the
disk outburst. Under this hypothesis up to 90% of the visible
light in NLCVs is from this background source. Nevertheless,
, because
most NLCV disks are concluded to be above M
crit

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480 HONEYCUTT
TABLE 1
Stunted Outbursts Observed, 19912000

Typea
(2)

Star
(1)
UU Aqr . . . . . . . .
CP Lac . . . . . . . . .
Q Cyg . . . . . . . . . .
RW Sex . . . . . . . .
X Ser . . . . . . . . . . .
HR Lyr . . . . . . . . .
FY Per . . . . . . . . .
DI Lac . . . . . . . . . .
V841 Oph . . . . . .
GI Mon . . . . . . . . .
RW Tri . . . . . . . . .
a

NL
N
N
N
NL
N
NL
N
N
N
NL

No. of Outbursts
(3)

Mean
Amplitude
(mag)
(4)

6
6
5
11
3
6
130
6
7
6
10

0.6
0.6
1.0
0.6
0.6
0.7
0.7
0.4
0.5
0.9
0.5

Typical Spacing
(days)
(5)
75:
200:
200:
50:
300:

Period
(days)
(6)

Mean FWHM
(days)
(7)

60
35
100
28
22
32
60
25

5
6
24
13
20:

NL: nova-like; N: nova.

most NLCVs do not have stunted outbursts. However, as dis for the
cussed in HRT98, the meager literature estimates of M
NLCV RoboScope program stars do not support the idea that
those NLCVs having stunted outbursts are systematically the
portion of the NLCV population. Perhaps this situation
lower M
is due to the hypothesized background source varying in
strength from system to system so as to obscure any dependence
; that is, the strength
of the presence of stunted outbursts on M
.
of the background source seems to be uncorrelated with M
Several possibilities for the nature of this background source
were briefly discussed in HRT98. We emphasize here a point
briefly mentioned in HRT98. Judging from extensive RoboScope data, there is no correlation of the system brightness
with the appearance of stunted outbursts, either within a given
system or from system to system. This would appear to rule
out accretion luminosity as the source of the background light.
If the extra light is derived from accretion energy, then a system
falls to make the disk unstable to
should become fainter as M
the thermal instability. This appears to argue against an irradiated, truncated disk (Warner 1995b; Leach et al. 1999) in a
system being somehow responsible for the stunted outhigh-M
burst phenomena. Such a configuration would leave the inner
disk in an ionized, high-viscosity state, which would respond
. Casting an initial wide net, this leaves
quickly to changes in M
as possibilities for the postulated background light rotational
energy, magnetic energy, radiation from a hot white dwarf, or
hydrogen burning on the white dwarf.
An intriguing possibility for the background source is nuclear
burning on the white dwarf, for which some qualitative com values
ments can be made. It seems very unlikely that NLCV M
are high enough to allow nuclear burning over a significant
portion of the area of the white dwarf. Rather, the nuclear
burning, if present, probably takes place at the base of magnetic
accretion column(s). The NLCV systems discussed here are
certainly not polars with B 10 7 G, but may nevertheless have
magnetic fields in the range 105107 G without producing con-

spicuous signatures of an intermediate polar (Patterson 1994).


Supersoft X-ray binaries (SSBs) are found among several kinds
of interacting binaries that are related to CVs (Steiner & Diaz
1998; Patterson et al. 1998; Gansicke et al. 2000). SSBs are
thought to be accreting at rates high enough to permit quasisteady nuclear burning (van den Heuvel et al. 1992; Di Stefano
& Nelson 1996). Nuclear burning is expected to produce anomalous abundance patterns. Interestingly, during a low state of
the VY Scl NLCV system TT Ari, Gansicke et al. (1999)
reported a depression of the C/N ratio on the white dwarf by
a factor of 810, consistent with thermonuclear processing.
This situation may be due to material processed by an earlier
nova explosion in the system, captured by the secondary, and
returned to the white dwarf via accretion. This is the mechanism
proposed for similar anomalous abundance patterns found on
the white dwarfs of the dwarf novae VY Hyi (Sion et al. 1995)
and U Gem (Sion et al. 1998). However, quasi-steady nuclear
burning cannot be ruled out. In fact, Greiner et al. (1999) have
argued that the NLCV V751 Cyg is a transient SSB based on
its X-ray characteristics, and they speculate that other VY Scl
stars may also be of this type. In any case, careful modeling
will be needed to adequately explore this idea.
Finally, it is worth noting an apparent correlation of the presence of stunted outbursts with the time that has elapsed since
the nova explosion. There are 22 old novae on the RoboScope
monitoring program. For 14 novae with dates between 1848 and
1936, stunted outbursts can be seen in seven. For those novae
between 1937 and 1986, none of the eight have shown stunted
outbursts. One of the latter group is Nova Her 1960 (pV446
Her), which now has normal (not stunted) dwarf nova outbursts
(Honeycutt et al. 1998a). Regardless of how V446 Her is
counted, it appears that most novae must age for a number of
decades before stunted outbursts can become apparent.

It is a pleasure to thank Todd Boroson, who managed the

2001 PASP, 113:473481

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OUTBURSTS IN NOVA-LIKE CVs AND DWARF NOVAE 481


KPNO Queue Program when the FY Per spectrum was acquired, the numerous AAVSO observers who contributed to
the Z Cam light curve, and the AAVSO staff who prepared
the light curve. Jeff Robertson, Todd Hillwig, George Turner,

and Brice Adams have been valued participants in keeping


RoboScope running and productive. Finally, the helpful comments of the referee are acknowledged. This work was partially
supported by NSF grant AST 95-28169.

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