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V1017 Sgr is a classical nova (from 1919) that displayed an earlier dwarf nova eruption (from 1901) and underwent two more dwarf nova events (in 1973 and 1991). Previous work on this bright system in quiescence (V = 13.5) has consisted only of a few isolated magnitudes, a few spectra and an ambiguous claim of an orbital period of 5.714 d based on nine radial velocities. To test this period, we have collected 2896 magnitudes (plus 53 in the literature) in the UBVRIJHKL bands from 1897-2016, making an essentially complete photometric history of this unique cataclysmic variable. We find that the light curve in all bands is dominated by the ellipsoidal modulations of a G giant companion star, with a post-eruption (after the 1919 nova event) orbital period of 5.786290 ± 0.000032 d. This is the longest period for any classical nova; the accretion must be powered by the nuclear evolution of the companion star and dwarf nova events occur only because the outer parts of the large disc are cool enough to be unstable. Further, we measure the pre-eruption orbital period (from 1907-1916). The orbital period has decreased by 273 ± 61 parts per million across the 1919 eruption, with the significance of the period change being at the 5.7σ confidence level. This is startling and mystifying for nova theory, because the three known period-change effects cannot account for a period decrease in V1017 Sgr, much less one of such a large size.

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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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