Watch Erupting Star Live

New star, called Nova Del 2013, is now brightening fast in the constellation Delphinius. The erupting white dwarf should now be an easy target for binoculars and soon for naked-eyes too.
Photograph by Anthony Ayiomamitis, TWAN

Whether in the sky or on the web, stargazers around the world are getting a chance to watch a ‘new’ star blow its top before their eyes.

The stellar explosion in the constellation Delphinius is brightening so fast in the skies that it is on the verge of being visible with the naked-eye according to reports from Sky and Telescope website.

UPDATE (8/16):  According to preliminary observational reports the nova has continued to brighten rapidly, now reaching magnitude 4.3. This means Nova Del 2013  is visible to the naked-eye as a very faint star even from city suburbs.

Kiochi Itagaki, an amateur astronomer in Japan, discovered the star a day ago  (Aug.14) by using nothing more than a modest 7 inch scope with a digital camera. The brightening star, called a nova, has already passed magnitude 6 – making it an easy target for binoculars even from light polluted cities. If it continues brightening it may become visible in the next few days with the unaided eye from dark skies.

Finder chart for Delphinius constellation in the evening sky. The Summer Triangle helps track down the small Dolphin star pattern. Credit: Starry night Software/A.Fazekas
Finder chart for Delphinius constellation in the evening sky. The Summer Triangle helps track down the small Dolphin star pattern. Credit: Starry night Software/A.Fazekas

Nova like this represent violent explosions in the  outer atmosphere of white dwarf stars. These Earth-sized hot cores of long dead Sun-like stars that end up going nova have a companion star from which they gravitationally siphon off their gases. Over time this matter accumulates on the white dwarf surface until it reaches critical temperatures and ignites in a massive thermonuclear explosion that can be seen for thousands of light years away.

Nearby Sagitta constellation’s ‘arrow’ pattern of stars point directly to the nova. Also the bright planetary nebula NGC6905 is immediately south of the brightening star too. Both handy guideposts for stargazers.

How bright it will this one get is anyone’s guess but it’s pretty amazing considering nothing was visible in that spot in the sky before this week.

The nova’s precise celestial coordinates are at right ascension 20h 23m 31s, declination +20° 46′.  The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)-  an international clearing house for observational data on stars the change in brightness – has prepared this detailed finder’s chart  to use at the telescope and binocular level chart  for this new star in our sky.

Armchair astronomers can also catch the stellar blast on a live webcast today right here, direct from SLOOH observatory on the Canaray Islands off the west coast of Africa  starting at 4 PM PDT / 7 PM EDT.

For more sky events check out our weekly skywatching column.

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Changing Planet

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.