A Giant Explosion in Space Will Happen This Year, And You Can See It : ScienceAlert | Space


Sometime between now and September, a massive explosion 3,000 light years from Earth will flare up in the night sky, giving amateur astronomers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness this space oddity.

The binary star system in the constellation Corona Borealis – “northern crown” – is normally too dim to see with the naked eye.

But every 80 years or so, exchanges between its two stars, which are locked in a deadly embrace, spark a runaway nuclear explosion.

The light from the blast travels through the cosmos and makes it appear as if a new star – as bright as the North Star, according to NASA – has suddenly just popped up in our night sky for a few days.

It will be at least the third time that humans have witnessed this event, which was first discovered by Irish polymath John Birmingham in 1866, then reappeared in 1946.

The appropriately named Sumner Starrfield, an astronomer at Arizona State University, told AFP he was very excited to see the nova’s “outburst”.

After all, he has worked on T Coronae Borealis – also known as the “Blaze Star” – on and off since the 1960s.

Starrfield is currently rushing to finish a scientific paper predicting what astronomers will find out about the recurring nova whenever it shows up in the next five months.

“It could be today… but I hope it’s not,” he said with a laugh.

The white dwarf and red giant

There are only around 10 recurring novas in the Milky Way and surrounding galaxies, Starrfield explained.

Normal novas explode “maybe every 100,000 years,” he said. But recurrent novas repeat their outbursts on a human timeline because of a peculiar relationship between their two stars.

One is a cool dying star called a red giant, which has burnt through its hydrogen and has hugely expanded — a fate that is awaiting our own Sun in around five billion years.

The other is a white dwarf, a later stage in the death of a star, after all the atmosphere has blown away and only the incredibly dense core remains.

Their size…

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