Unique stellar explosion will be visible from Earth – DW – 07/03/2024

Unique stellar explosion will be visible from Earth – DW – 07/03/2024
Unique stellar explosion will be visible from Earth – DW – 07/03/2024

If you are passionate about astronomy, prepare yourself for a spectacular event: the imminent nova of T Coronae Borealis (T CrB), also known as the “Blaze Star”.

This binary system, located about 3,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Corona Borealis, is composed of a white dwarf and a red giant. The white dwarf, with a mass similar to that of the Sun but the size of the Earth, absorbs material from its dying companion. When it accumulates enough mass, a thermonuclear explosion is triggered that dramatically increases its brightness.

Now, recent calculations indicate that we are about to witness its next explosion, which promises to be visible from Earth with the naked eye, without the need for a telescope. This phenomenon, known as a nova, occurs approximately every 80 years and has astronomers and amateurs eagerly awaiting its appearance.

T Corona Borealis: one nova, not one supernova

The history of T CrB is a fascinating one, having been first observed in 1217 by the German abbot Abbott Burchard. Since then, it has captured the attention of amateurs and scientists alike, with novae also recorded in 1866 and 1946. This regular cycle of explosions, which does not disintegrate the star as in a supernova, is what keeps researchers on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next big flash.

Nova could happen at any time

According to calculations by Brad Schaefer, professor emeritus of astronomy at Louisiana State University, along with data from amateur astronomers at the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), the nova should occur a few months before May 2024, according to a report by Space.comSpecifically, experts predict that this nova could occur any time between now and September 2024.

This year, the star has shown signs of being close to its tipping point. Moreover, the observation of a “pre-eruption dip” in T CrB’s brightness in March 2023 reinforces this prediction.

Dr. Rebekah Hounsell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center highlights the thrill of having a front-row seat to this rare event, which is not only a true wonder for hobbyists but also a valuable study opportunity for scientists.

“There are some recurrent novae with very short cycles, but we don’t typically see a repeating outburst in a human lifetime, and rarely one so relatively close to our own system,” Hounsell said in a NASA statement.

How to watch it?

To observe this phenomenon, viewers will need to look for the constellation Hercules, between the bright stars of Vega and Arcturus. Right next to it is the Corona Borealis, a U-shaped curve of stars where T CrB resides. Once the nova erupts, it will be visible to the naked eye for about a week, shining so brightly that it will be impossible to miss.

NASA’s Dr. Elizabeth Hays told CNET that the brightness will gradually increase over the first 24 hours until it reaches its peak. “The best time to look with the naked eye will be about a day after the eruption,” Hayes said. “But the nova will be visible to the naked eye for a few days,” she added.

Gain new insights into binary systems

This event will not only fascinate casual observers, but will also provide valuable data to scientists. With technology far more advanced than in 1946, researchers hope to gain new insights into the life cycles of binary systems and the processes that drive them.

Ultimately, this next flash will not only be a treat for the eyes, but also promises to inspire the next generation of astronomers and scientists, fueling curiosity and knowledge about our cosmic universe.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will create a wealth of new astronomers, giving young people a cosmic event they can observe for themselves, ask their own questions and collect their own data,” Hounsell said. “It will nurture the next generation of scientists.”

Felipe Espinosa Wang with information from NASA, CNET and Space.com

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