Changing Planet

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.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

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.
  • Julian Idle

    It would be helpful if you could post UTC times for events such as these. Not everyone reading this is located in the US.

  • Vasco Ferreira

    does anyone can tell me what’s the position of this star in the delphinus constellation?

  • Darlene Burns

    The commentator keeps saying “This just blew up” and “This is going on right now” but I’d like to know how many light years away this nova is because that tells us how long ago in the *past* it actually blew and the light of the explosion is just reaching us.

  • Jody Cotter

    I just think for something this wonderful that you could at least tell us to look in the east or north east orwhatever. Instead of saying that the average person will never find it. You started out by saying we could see it with a telescope and later with the naked eye. And yet you don’t have the courtesy to tell us what direction. I just think that is a little remiss of your show.

  • Chris

    “Watch Erupting Star Live”

    It was only talked about for a little over 14 minutes…

  • Frank Lawrence
  • Mayuri

    Its realy wonderfull ..tht in this century we r lucky to notice the stars while its erupting ..
    We all r the witness for tht .

  • Ryan

    @Jody, there is a massive star chart above that clearly says “East”. Maybe it would be helpful if you actually read it thoroughly?

  • Glen King

    Agree with Jody and Julian. How about a map and co-ords. The average person can at least have a go at finding it. They might see something they’ve never seen before while exploring the night sky for the nova.

    • A wide angle finder chart showing how to locate the Delphinius constellation and links to higher resolution charts, including the precise celestial coordinates are all included in the article.

  • Adi

    @Darlene, you would be right if you were living on a planet near the star (it would have been in the past for us, compared to us at the present point in time in the same place).

    However, since we live light years apart from the event, from our perspective, the commentator is right and this is happening right now.

  • Anthony Ayiomamitis

    The nova is very well-placed once darkness has set in. To this end, look high in the eastern sky for the general direction of where to locate the nova. For those who recognize the Summer Triangle, the nova is just to the left of the line joining Deneb with Altair.

    In relation to the question about coordinates, they are as follows: RA 20h 23m 30.73s and Dec +20° 46′ 04.1″ .

    Further info in relation to the image above:

  • stefan

    I try to find it… but i don’t recognise the image from video with what i find

  • Cale

    Nova like this represent violent explosions of tiny white dwarf stars in the outer atmosphere.

    In the atmosphere?

  • Nice new photo showing location of nova among constellations on NASA’s APOD:

  • Brad Filippone

    The funny thing is, less than two weeks ago I ended up giving an impromptu naked eye star party with a large group of friends I was camping with, most of whom knew very little about astronomy. Near the end of the evening I said, “I’ve shown you the big important constellations, let me show you one that’s not so well known, but is one of my favorites. You see that little diamond up there…etc” and showed them Delphinus. So then by coincidence this appears. I sent them the link to the article and thanks to me they know where to look!

  • Mudslinger

    For crying out loud, would it kill someone to tell us which way to look and how far up from the horizon?

  • bellotilla

    How old is this Nova?

  • The King

    Iimagine what’s going on there.
    It makes me hope there are other beings in the universe that are looking out at the stars and imagining whats out there.Peace.

  • Chris Space

    There is no such thing as watching it LIVE. Its light years away in other words it exploded years ago and the light of the explosion is just getting to us.

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