Arizona State University

Sumner Starrfield

Regents' Professor

School of Earth and Space Exploration
P. O. Box 871404
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona 85287-1404
E-mail:sumner.starrfield at

Telephone: (480)  965-7569
FAX: (480) 965-8102
Messages: (480) 965-5081

Education and Degrees:
B.A. University of California, Berkeley
M.S.  University of California, Los Angeles
Ph.D. University of California,  Los Angeles

HST Image of the V838 Mon light echo in February 2004

The pictures that I took at RS Oph 2006 workshop held in  Keele in June 2007

Research Interests
S. Starrfield is a computational astrophysicist who has been doing studies of stellar explosions (novae, recurrent novae, X-ray bursts, and Supernova Ia progenitors) for more than 30 years using a Lagrangian, hydrodynamic, fully implicit, stellar evolution computer code that incorporates a large nuclear reaction network.  I have also observed with ground based optical and infrared telescopes and space based telescopes at all available wavelength regimes (Compton, Integral, Rosat, SWIFT, XMM, CHANDRA, HST, FUSE, IUE, Spitzer).  I am currently a member of the Science teams for both the Advanced Compton Telescope (PI Steve Boggs) and the Destiny concept study (Tod Lauer PI).  I am on the Users Committee of the  INTEGRAL satellite.

The astronomy abstract service list of my publications (refereed and otherwise) can be found here.

Current Projects
I am currently using the Hubble Space Telescope to obtain new images of the V838 Mon light echo in order to obtain a three dimensional model of the circumstellar dust surrounding the central star.  I am using SWIFT to obtain  X-ray spectra of a number of novae such as V723 Cas which has recently been detected in X-rays.  I am using SPITZER to obtain infrared spectra of a number of recent novae.  I am doing calculations of the accretion of material at high rates onto luminous white dwarfs and exploriing the effects of addtitional nuclear reaction rates (such as the pep reaction which was not included in previous studies) on the nova outburst.  I am studying the effects of different metallicity of the accreting material on the evolution and properties of the nova outburst. I am also studying helium accretion onto white dwarfs in order to better understand the 2000 outburst of V445 Pup.

Classical Nova Review that I wrote in 1993

Class Web Page:
AST 111 or AST 112 (not until spring)

This is an artists drawing of a Cataclysmic Variable Binary star system which contains a large cool star that fills its Roche Lobe (Restricted Problem of Three Bodies) and is losing mass through the inner Lagrangian Point into the Lobe surrounding the other star which is a white dwarf.  The material spirals in through an accretion disk before falling onto the white dwarf.  The compact star can also be a neutron star or black hole and in that case it is called a Low Mass X-ray Binary.
This is the optical light curve showing the brightness of Nova V723 Cas which erupted in 1995 and exhibited an extremely unusual set of peaks around maximum brightness.   We have recently observed it with the SWIFT satellite and find that it is still emitting in  X-rays.
Artists' conception of a Nova Close Binary Star System V723 Cas Light Curve

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