An amateur astronomer in Japan has spotted an exploding star in a constellation in the northern sky – and its glow is visible now.
A Japanese amateur astronomer, Yuji Nakamura of Kameyama City, Mie Prefecture, found a new object in Cassiopeia on 18 March – and it’s believed to be a ‘nova’ explosion.
The ‘nova’ explosion is a nuclear blast on the surface of a white dwarf star (different from a ‘supernova’ where a large star tears itself apart).
Nova explosions happen when a small, dense white dwarf orbits closely around a normal star, ‘sucking’ hydrogen from its surface.
A huge explosion occurs when the hydrogen on the white dwarf becomes hot and dense enough to trigger nuclear fusion, ScienceAlert reports.
Watch: Killer Rays from Exploding Stars May Have Caused Mass Extinction on Earth
Follow-up observations with the Seimei Telescope in Okayama Prefecture operated by Kyoto University confirmed it was a ‘classical nova’.
Additional observations show that this object was 9.1 magnitude in the dead of night of 18 March, which indicates that it is possibly in the brightening phase.
David Dickinson of Universe Today wrote: “As of writing this, N Cas 2021 is still brightening at around magnitude +7.
“That puts it in easy range of binoculars, and if it brightens much more, it’ll be within naked eye visibility from a dark sky site.”
“In late March, Cassiopeia is low to the northwest for northern hemisphere observers at dusk, sinking towards lower culmination near local midnight before gaining elevation to the northeast in the early dawn hours. The Moon is now waxing towards Full on March 28th, after which, it will wane and begin to leave the dusk scene.
Last year, Cornell University suggested that life could exist even on worlds orbiting white dwarf stars not much bigger than our Earth.
White dwarfs are the burnt out remnants of stars, and are dim and ultra-dense, with a mass similar to our sun’s, but crammed into a planet-sized object.
Scientists believe that planets orbiting the dead stars could be at the right temperature to host life.
Telescopes such as the Extremely Large Telescope, currently under construction in northern Chile's Atacama Desert, and the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2021 will allow astronomers to look at the stars.
Professor Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute, said: "Rocky planets around white dwarfs are intriguing candidates to characterise because their hosts are not much bigger than Earth-size planets.”
Watch: Scientists find unique supernova explosion