Hibernating White Dwarf Star Explosion Captured Going Nova

Posted: Aug 18 2016, 9:05am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 18 2016, 9:21am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Astronomers Watch Hibernating White Dwarf Star Explosion Going Nova
Artist's portrayal of a classical nova explosion. Credit: K. Ulaczyk / Warsaw University Observatory
  • Astronomers Watch Hibernating White Dwarf Star Explosion Going Nova

Apparently a star underwent self-destruction after a long latency period. This was observed by astronomers recently.

There are billions of stars out there in the known universe. What to say about the unknown part where the light rays of the telescopes do not reach?

Astronomers observed one of these stars which exploded in a pretty violent manner after a time period during which it hibernated. This is the classical case of a nova explosion.

It is the first instance of a white dwarf transforming into a nova eruption. It had a low and chaotic mass transfer rate too. The observation has made waves in the scientific discipline of astronomy.

Classical novae are exciting phenomena because they emit a whole lot of light and are very easy to see in the night sky. Since they are rather quirky in nature, the pre-explosive behavior of novae remains a mystery.

This is the first time that the behavior of a nova can be known in detail via close telescopic observation. Both pre-eruption and post-eruption behaviors were readily observable this time around.

The nova simply burst apart at the seams in a binary star system. The Centaurus constellation which is 6300 light years away from our home planet became the venue for this novel explosion.

Yet the phenomenon lies within the ambit of our very own Milky Way galaxy. A white dwarf gathered materials from its secondary star over a window of opportunity.

This in turn caused a thermonuclear reaction on the surface which eventually caused the star system to undergo a doomsday scenario. The brightness could be seen from a long way off. It was in fact 10,000 times as bright as any other object in the night sky.

Astronomers tend to view from five to ten such supernova explosions per year. While they occur in the Milky Way, they do not show much in the way of refulgence.

That is because they remain covered by gas and dust from the other remains of flotsam and jetsam that lie between the stars. There are recent examples of this which occurred in 2013 and 2015.

This current case involved a brightening phase that lasted half a dozen years before the star exploded into smithereens. Approximately six days before the explosion, there was a fluctuation in brightness.

After the explosion, the mass transfer rate also shot up. While the brightness remains, it is getting dimmer as the days pass by. The hibernation hypothesis is gaining ground as this observation proves.

The observation, reported in a new paper published in Nature, took place by chance too. Yet it was worth it since it added to the knowledge base of the science of astronomy.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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