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August 15, 2013

Spaced-Out Challenge: Bright Nova Alert

No, it's not the Super-Nova of Death we are long awaiting (over that so-last-year tease SMOD), but a surprisingly bright nova caught by an amateur astronomer using just a 7" telescope yesterday. Over the course of the night it brightened from an already spectacular 6.8 mag to possibly 5.5 based on the latest amateur observations, Correction: now visual reports peg it at magnitude 5 putting it well within range of the naked eye from a dark sky site and binoculars for everyone else with a clear sky. Novae don't typically remain bright for long, so if you have a pair of binoculars, here's the what it is and how to see it, with bonus live video from Slooh.

First off, what is a nova?
Unlike a supernova in which accumulated iron totally destroys either a white dwarf or a super-massive star, novae are the result of accumulated hydrogen going thermonuclear on the surface of a white dwarf star without destroying it. Such accumulations and explosions can recur over and over in binary systems, and typically the resulting nova makes for an interesting sight in telescopes. But this particular nova is far, far brighter than that.

Thanks to this, you do not need to trek out to dark skies to catch it. Binoculars of at least 8x42 will do the trick.
Now, let's go hunting:



What you are looking for isn't even illustrated here, but tonight it should appear in the red circle as a "star" brighter than all other stars in the field except 29 Vulpecula. Who knows, it may brighten even more than that.

At 7pm EDT, the Slooh Space Camera will be eyeballing this stellar explosion, which you can watch live below, in case your skies are looking crappy tonight.

Interestingly,no X-Rays have yet been detected. As this discovery is barely 24 hours old, I'm sure we'll get more information about it over the next few evenings, and perhaps more spectroscopic analysis than what we currently have, but in the meantime, try to catch it before it's gone!

Regular SOC will appear Sunday.

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posted by CAC at 06:33 PM

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