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posted by hubie on Wednesday March 27, @03:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-the-brightest-bulb-in-the-pack dept.

Scientists are predicting a once-in-a-lifetime nova explosion before September:

A sharp-eyed star gazer in Wyoming might catch a new star in the night sky this spring or summer. Beginning at any time now through the end of September, astronomers are expecting we can see the aftermath of a spectacular celestial event that happened 3,000 years ago.

Astronomers are awaiting a nova from T Coronae Borealis in the Northern Crown constellation, which is located between the constellations of the Boötes and Hercules. A nova is a brief moment when a flash of light from a binary star system shines brightly in the night sky.

The new light is so bright that T Coroane Borealis, ordinarily not visible to the naked eye, can potentially be spotted by Wyomingites. It won't look like much, but it's unusual to experience it from our small spot in the universe.

"Novas are a little subtle compared to supernovas," said Max Gilbraith, the planetarium coordinator for the University of Wyoming Physics and Astronomy Department. "They are called new stars because they will briefly appear as a new light in the sky for a couple of months."

Novas might be called new stars, but that's not what Wyomingites will see when it happens sometime in the next few months. Gilbraith said the bright light of a nova is a "momentary flare" from the outside of a dying star interacting with what's left of the inside of a dead star.

[...] The light of the distant nova will reach Earth sometime in the next seven months. Astronomers won't know for sure until it gets here.

[...] Gilbraith said the nova will have a similar brightness to Polaris, the North Star. People might believe that the North Star is the brightest in the sky, but it doesn't hold a candle to the truth.

Astronomers don't know when we'll see the nova, but they know where. It'll be visible in the constellation Corona Borealis, shining like a jewel in the Northern Crown. It's a U-shaped constellation behind Hercules' back and under Boötes the Herdman's elbow.

[...] While not as spectacularly dramatic as a supernova, Gilbraith hopes Wyomingites will be curious enough to seek out Corona Borealis and observe the impending nova. Once its light gets here, it should be visible for several weeks, at least.

[...] The nova might not be the brightest or most exciting sight in the night sky, but it's quite important for science. Gilbraith said novae help astronomers measure precise distances in space, revealing our distance from other galaxies with much greater accuracy.

But T Coroane Borealis is special. It's one of only five recurring novae in the night sky, which means it has repeatedly sent flashes of light, usually once every 80 years.

[...] "A nova is a standard candle that always occurs at a characteristic mass," he said. "It's holding onto some mass thrown it from its neighbor, and it will briefly reignite that candle just a little."

A NASA page has a small star map that shows where to look for it.

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, @03:56AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, @03:56AM (#1350529)

    Just like the Bethlehem star! To announce and celebrate the re-birth and return of our Jesus president here in the USA /s [] []

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by TheKLB on Wednesday March 27, @09:43PM (2 children)

    by TheKLB (5880) on Wednesday March 27, @09:43PM (#1350554)

    If nothing is faster than the speed of light, and the light hasn't got here yet... how do they know it's coming?

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by Ox0000 on Wednesday March 27, @09:46PM

      by Ox0000 (5111) on Wednesday March 27, @09:46PM (#1350556)

      Obviously the aliens who live there phoned ahead... duh...


    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by dvorak on Thursday March 28, @04:19AM

      by dvorak (1194) on Thursday March 28, @04:19AM (#1350627)
      The article provides some clues:

      “A nova occurs when you've got a white dwarf, which is a dead sunlike star,” Galbraith said. “That’s got a companion sister star in its orbit. In this case, it's a red giant. And as the very hot inner core of the red giant expands, it causes the outer layers of that star to expand far enough away that they might deposit onto the surface of the white dwarf, the dead core of a sun.”
      The light generated by the thermonuclear hydrogen fusion of the dead and dying stars will be the “new star” visible from Wyoming.
      Astronomers can spot around 10 novae every year...
      But T Coroane Borealis is special. It's one of only five recurring novae in the night sky, which means it has repeatedly sent flashes of light, usually once every 80 years.

      My non-expert read of that is, the astronomers see these stars aligning (sorry) for a nova sometime later this year, based on evidence from previous novas that have been studied (including potentially previous occurances of this one) and the current evidence from the two stars in play here.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Gaaark on Wednesday March 27, @10:01PM

    by Gaaark (41) on Wednesday March 27, @10:01PM (#1350564) Journal

    It'll probably happen during the eclipse and everyone will miss it.

    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---