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A Nova Next to Alpha Centauri

A Nova Next to Alpha Centauri

Coconut Science Lab
December 11, 2013

Discovered on December 02, 2013, Nova Centauri 2013 is currently visible on a dark night, located in the constellation of Centaurus, not far from the bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri.

The nova was discovered by John Seach from Australia and is the brightest nova to have occurred so far this millennium. The above photograph was taken on December 09, 2013, and shows that this “new star” is easily visible. However, it seems to have peaked at about magnitude 3.6 on December 5th and was down to about 4.3 by the 9th.

This is a classical nova, not a supernova. A nova like this usually occurs in a binary star system, when hydrogen from a companion star accumulates on the surface of white dwarf. Eventually, the layer of hydrogen gets so thick that a runaway fusion reaction takes place on the dwarf’s surface, causing it to brighten tremendously. Since the white dwarf is not destroyed, these novae may occur on a regular basis.

The photo above was taken by Yuri Beletsky at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in the high Chilean Atacama Desert.

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