‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ nova explosion set to stun viewers with spectacular light show, NASA says: All you need to know | World News - Hindustan Times
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‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ nova explosion set to stun viewers with spectacular light show, NASA says: All you need to know

BySumanti Sen
Jun 13, 2024 12:57 PM IST

A cosmic nova event expected to take place sometime between now and September will appear to add a “new star” to the night sky, NASA has said.

A cosmic nova event expected to take place sometime between now and September will appear to add a “new star” to the night sky, NASA has said. The extremely bright spectacle will be visible to the naked eye.

‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ cosmic nova event set to stun viewers with spectacular light show (Pixabay - representational image)
‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ cosmic nova event set to stun viewers with spectacular light show (Pixabay - representational image)

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that will create a lot of new astronomers out there, giving young people a cosmic event they can observe for themselves, ask their own questions, and collect their own data,” said Dr. Rebekah Hounsell, an assistant research scientist specialising in nova events at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

She added, “It’ll fuel the next generation of scientists.”

All about the nova event

T Coronae Borealis is nicknamed the Blaze Star, and is also known as T CrB to astronomers. The small binary star system is located in the Milky Way’s Northern Crown between the Boötes and Hercules constellations, about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

It is said to be comprised of a white dwarf that gradually rips hydrogen from an ancient red giant, NASA said. The white dwarf is a dead star that has a mass matching that of the sun, however, the size is just about that of the Earth.

The hydrogen from the red giant builds up on the white dwarf’s surface about every 80 years. Eventually, a violent thermonuclear explosion is sparked and the hydrogen is spit back out into space, causing a spectacular light show.

To us, watching the phenomenon from the Earth, it will appear as though the new star came into the sky. The first such sighting took place over 800 years back, and was recorded by an Abbott in Germany, who spotted “a faint star that for a time shone with great light.” The last nova on T CrB took place in 1946.

“There are a few recurrent novae with very short cycles, but typically, we don’t often see a repeated outburst in a human lifetime, and rarely one so relatively close to our own system,” Hounsell said. “It’s incredibly exciting to have this front-row seat.”

Hounsell clarified that the nova event is not the same as the more popular supernova, which is a phenomenon where a massive star destroys itself by exploding at the end of its life.

Stargazers can look at the nova event with the naked eye. Hounsell believes it is sure to stun viewers across the world.

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