DR. SKY BLOG

Grab your binoculars to take a peek at nova in Arizona skies

Oct 13, 2021, 2:00 PM
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

One of the most amazing events in the world of astronomy is the topic of a nova.

In the most basic of all explanations, a nova is a star that reaches a critical mass, collapses under the pressure of gravity and then explodes!

While there are many types of nova, the most basic are the ones that populate the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Most observed novae involve the participation of a white dwarf star in a close binary situation.

During the actual explosion, the outer shell of the star is then blown out into interstellar space, sending incredible amounts of energy into space.

One classic nova was the major explosion observed by the Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe back on Nov. 11, 1572, when a “new” star appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia.

That nova was classified as a supernova, as it would shine brighter than the planet Venus in the night sky, for a period of about a year.

Here is an image of what the supernova remnant looks like today in space.

While events like this are rather rare, we now turn our attention to a small nova that is visible in our Arizona skies with a pair of binoculars.

Here is that story.

A star in the constellation of Cassiopeia had gone nova in mid-March 2021, near the location of the 1572 event.

This new event is not related to the previous supernova, but it creates an easy field of view to locate it.

Nova Cassiopeiae 2021 was discovered March 18.

It was recorded at magnitude plus 7.8, meaning that you needed a pair of binoculars to even see it and under dark skies and no bright moonlight.

In May, the nova shot up to near naked eye visibility at plus 5.8 magnitude.

The nova has now faded and those with large telescopes might like to search for the object in our October skies.

The nova is located at these coordinates:

V1405 Cas is located at right ascension 23 hours, 24 minutes and 48 seconds, declination plus 61° 11′ 15″.

Here is a finder chart and another for the object and additional details on how you might find it.

Note: The current magnitude of the object is right around plus 8.0, meaning that a telescope is required to view it.

Details on the fading of the nova.

Your source of additional learning about novae and the many types of novae in our universe.

Classic supernovae in history.

Closer to home, in the year 1006 AD, native cultures in Arizona did record a great supernova and document it in petroglyphs.

We are long due for the next major supernovae in our skies.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

Podcasts are available here.

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Grab your binoculars to take a peek at nova in Arizona skies