Stellar fireworks: A nova explosion could be visible from Earth this year

It would appear as the same brightness as the North Star, Polaris

An artist's impression of the nova explosion. Photo: Nasa
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A nova explosion is expected to be visible from Earth before the end of September.

The rare event, which occurs about every 80 years, takes place when a white dwarf star in a binary star system accumulates gases like hydrogen from its companion, leading to an explosion.

The Nova event will involve the T Coronae Borealis (T Crb), located in the constellation Corona Borealis, or the Northern Crown star system, about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

“This could be a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity as the nova outburst only occurs about every 80 years,” Nasa said.

“Once its brightness peaks, it should be visible to the unaided eye for several days and just over a week with binoculars before it dims again.”

What is a nova explosion?

The event differs from a supernova explosion, which is much more powerful and occurs when a star dies.

In a nova explosion, the white dwarf star survives.

“The stars are close enough that, as the red giant becomes unstable from its increasing temperature and pressure and begins ejecting its outer layers, the white dwarf collects that matter on to its surface,” said Nasa.

“The shallow dense atmosphere of the white dwarf eventually heats enough to cause a runaway thermonuclear reaction – which produces the nova we see from Earth.”

T Crb, which last exploded in 1946, will reach a higher magnitude once the explosion takes place and will be the same brightness as the North Star, Polaris.

A supernova explosion will eventually be visible from Earth, but it will most likely will not happen for another 100,000 years.

Betelgeuse, about 640,000 light years away, is one of the closest and brightest stars to Earth, and its violent death will be visible.

Scientists have been speculating that the explosion will happen soon as the star has been dimming significantly over the past few years.

The star is about 10 million years old.

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Updated: March 13, 2024, 12:24 PM