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.
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.