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Rare Nova Outburst 3,000 Light-Years Away Will Be Visible To Naked Eye
Rare Nova Outburst 3,000 Light-Years Away Will Be Visible To Naked Eye
Rare Nova Outburst 3,000 Light-Years Away Will Be Visible To Naked Eye

Published on: 04/14/2024

Description

A nova outburst in the constellation Corona Borealis, or Northern Crown, will appear as a bright star visible to the naked eye sometime between now and September. This photo illustration includes elements provided by NASA.
A nova outburst in the constellation Corona Borealis, or Northern Crown, will appear as a bright star visible to the naked eye sometime between now and September. This photo illustration includes elements provided by NASA. (Shutterstock / M.Aurelius)

ACROSS AMERICA — With the total solar eclipse behind us, the next big thing for skygazers to keep an eye out for is the birth of a new star in a rare cosmic eruption 3,000 light-years away that NASA says will be visible to the naked eye.

Known as a nova outburst, this once-in-a-lifetime stargazing event could occur at any time between now and September. T Coronae Borealis — or T CrB, as the star system is known — last exploded in 1946, and it will be another 80 or so years in the future before it happens again, according to NASA.

This recurring nova, one of just five in our galaxy, occurs because T CrB is a binary system with two stars, a white dwarf, an ancient dead star, that is orbited closely by a red giant, an aging star that has exhausted the hydrogen fuel in its core.

As the core contracts and heats up, its outer layers expand and cool, causing it to swell up in size As the outer layers of the bloated star cool, they take on a reddish appearance.

The white dwarf, a remnant of a star that has exhausted its nuclear fuel and undergone gravitational collapse, cannibalizes the red giant. It slowly “eats” the larger star’s hydrogen, heating up to the point that it ignites in a brief flash of nuclear fusion on its surface, triggering the nova outburst or the appearance of a “new” star.

It’s not technically a new star, but one that’s bright enough for people to see it clearly from Earth.

In normal circumstances, the star system has a magnitude of +10, which NASA says is “far too dim to see with the unaided eye.” But when it jumps to a +2 during the nova outburst, it will jump to a magnitude of +2, which is similar to the brightness of the North Star, Polaris.

Once the star system’s brightness peaks, it should be visible to the naked eye for a few days and with binoculars or a telescope for about a week.

Because the outburst may occur at any time, NASA advises skywatchers to familiarize themselves with the constellation Corona Borealis, a semicircular arc between Boötes and Hercules that is known as the Northern Crown.

The nova outburst will appear as a bright “new” star in the constellation Corona Borealis, a semicircular arc between Boötes and Hercules that is known as the Northern Crown. (NASA image)

A nova is less dramatic than a supernova when a star reaches the end of its life and explodes in a brilliant burst of light that outshines their entire galaxies for a few days or even months and can be seen across the universe, NASA says.

These spectacular events can be so bright that they outshine their entire galaxies for a few days or even months. They can be seen across the universe and are exceedingly rare. Astronomers think only a couple or three supernovas occur each century in galaxies such as our Milky Way.

Jonathan Blazek, an assistant professor of physics at Boston’s Northeastern University, says star systems like T CrB are prime candidates for a supernova because after repeated novae, it can no longer support its own mass and starts to collapse and erupt.

“These are cosmologically super interesting because you can see them really, really far away, and because they’re almost always the same brightness, you can use them as very particular probes of the universe,” Blazek says in a news release on the university’s website.

“You can basically map out how bright something is at different distances away and use that to say, ‘How is the universe changing at different distances?’ This is actually how they discovered dark energy,” he said.

The universe contains many galaxies, giving astronomers the opportunity to observe a few hundred per year outside our galaxy. Space dust blocks our view of most of the supernovas within the Milky Way, according to NASA.

Get Ready For Fireballs

While you’re scanning the skies in hopes of seeing the nova outburst, you may start to see shooting stars with the return of spring meteor showers.

The timing of the April 23 full pink moon (it’s called that because it’s around the time of year when wild pink ground phlox starts to bloom) isn’t great for people anxious to see shooting stars.

The Lyrid meteor shower, which runs April 15-29, peaks overnight April 21-22 just before the moon turns full. It’s an average sky show, producing about 15 or 20 shooting stars an hour, but it historically has produced bright Lyrid fireballs that blaze across the sky and leave dust trails that last for several seconds, according to NASA. Fireballs can be bright enough to penetrate bright moonlight.

The Lyrids can fire off a surprise, though, with counts of as many as 100 shooting stars an hour, according to NASA. Sightings of these heavier showers occurred in Virginia in 1803, in Greece in 1922, Japan in 1945 and the United States in 1982.

The Eta Aquariids, which intersect with the Lyrids, offer a much better chance to see shooting stars. Sometimes called the Eta Aquarids, the meteor shower rambles along from April 15 to May 27, peaking around May 5-6, when the moon will appear about 14 percent full.

The Eta Aquariids have a broad peak, and that means skywatchers may see elevated numbers of meteors a few days before and after the peak. At the peak, about 30 meteors may be seen an hour, although as many as 60 an hour have been reported, according to NASA.

They’re known for speed, entering Earth’s atmosphere at about 148,000 miles an hour, and also for leaving glowing “trains” — incandescent bits of debris — that last for several seconds to minutes.

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News Source : https://patch.com/us/across-america/rare-nova-outburst-3-000-light-years-away-will-be-visible-naked-eye

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