Once-in-a-lifetime nova will appear in Earth's sky. Here's how to spot it.


A rare nova explosion will soon be visible in the Earth’s nighttime sky, according to officials at NASA.

The event, which could occur anytime between now and September, is creating a buzz within the astronomy community, as both professional and amateur astronomers alike will be able to see the explosion.

“We’re definitely noticing a lot of excitement as skywatchers anticipate the predicted nova,” Claire Andreoli, astrophysics communications manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told Yahoo News. “It’s rare we get the opportunity to witness something like this with our own eyes, which is definitely contributing to the buzz.”

🌟 What causes a star to go nova?

Located 3,000 light years from Earth, T Coronae Borealis (T CrB), nicknamed the Blaze Star, is a binary star system in the Coronae Borealis (or “northern crown”) constellation.

In this binary system, a white dwarf (a dead star) and an ancient red giant (a slowly dying star) are gravitationally bound to each other. Every 80 years or so, the hydrogen from the red giant fuses with the surface of the white dwarf, causing a buildup of pressure and heat, resulting in a thermonuclear explosion — causing the system to go nova.

The last time a T CrB nova was seen from Earth was in 1946.

💥 What is the difference between nova and supernova?

A nova is an astronomical event in which a star experiences a sudden and dramatic increase in brightness — sometimes as much as 100,000 times its normal level.

This results in a “new” star appearing in the night sky (“nova” is the Latin word for “new”), that slowly fades over weeks or months.

A nova differs from a supernova in that, during a nova, a star flares up then returns to dormancy. In a supernova, the star is completely destroyed.

“T CrB is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Dr. Rebekah Hounsell, astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told Yahoo News. “This event will inspire a new generation of astronomers as anyone can take part in observing this amazing astronomical event.”

📍How to find T Coronae Borealis in the night sky

When T CrB goes nova, it will be visible with the naked eye for about a week.

To see it, first locate the Hercules constellation, then look to the west for the Northern Crown, a horseshoe-shaped curve of stars.

“[The Northern Crown] can be identified by locating the two brightest stars in the Northern Hemisphere — Arcturus and Vega — and tracking a straight line from one to the other, which will lead skywatchers to Hercules and the Corona Borealis,” NASA says on its website.

“This will be a fleeting event and may be difficult to spot,” Andreoli told Yahoo News.

“We’re really trying to manage expectations and provide people with as much information as possible so they’re hopefully ready to witness this one-in-a-lifetime cosmic spectacle.”

Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules, then scan between Vega and Arcturus, where the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis may be identified. (NASA)
Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules, then scan between Vega and Arcturus, where the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis may be identified. (NASA)

Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules, then scan between Vega and Arcturus, where the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis may be identified. (NASA)

💡How you can best view the nova

  • Get away from light pollution. Light pollution is stray light from parking lots, sport complexes, street lights and other human activity, which manifests as a glow in the night sky. For darker skies, head at least 20 to 30 miles away from city limits, advises NASA.

  • Check the weather forecast. Make sure it’s a clear, cloudless night with good transparency (low dust and humidity levels). Websites like Good to Stargaze can tell you whether or not your location’s forecast is favorable for stargazing.

  • Use a constellation app or planisphere. Apps like Sky Guide use AR technology to turn your phone into a map to the stars. For those who prefer a more hands-on guide, a planisphere can help locate the Hercules constellation.





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