A new star is on the horizon. Here is how to catch it

Illustration of T Coronae Borealis where material from a red giant star pours onto a white dwarf, setting the stage for a humongous stellar explosion. Credit: NASA/Conceptual Image Lab/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Get ready to witness a celestial spectacle!

Astronomers predict that sometime this year, a new star will burst into view in the night sky within the constellation Corona Borealis, also known as the Northern Crown.

This phenomenon, known as a recurrent nova, occurs when two stars interact, resulting in a sudden eruption of brightness that lasts only a few days.

The star responsible for this display is called T Coronae Borealis, or T CrB, and it resides approximately 3,000 light-years away from Earth.

T CrB is part of a stellar system where a white dwarf, the leftover core of a star, and a red giant companion orbit each other.

Every 80 years or so, these stars undergo a dramatic event where material from the companion star is transferred onto the white dwarf, triggering a powerful explosion of energy.

David Wilson, an astrophysicist at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder, explains that novae, like T CrB, are not the same as supernovae, which mark the end of a star’s life.

Novae simply refer to the appearance of a new star in the sky, which eventually fades away.

In the case of T CrB, the interaction between the white dwarf and its companion leads to the accumulation of hydrogen on the white dwarf’s surface.

When the hydrogen becomes dense enough, it undergoes nuclear fusion, resulting in a sudden increase in brightness – like a hydrogen bomb the size of the Earth!

Recurrent novae like T CrB are relatively common cosmic events, occurring every few years. However, what sets T CrB apart is its predictability.

Astronomers have observed a pattern in its activity, with previous eruptions occurring in 1946 and 1866. Recent observations indicate that T CrB is once again approaching an eruption phase, making it an exciting target for stargazers.

To observe T CrB, Wilson suggests familiarizing oneself with the constellation Corona Borealis, which will be visible in the northeastern sky around 9 o’clock.

As the year progresses, the constellation will rise higher overhead, making it easier to spot. Although T CrB won’t be the brightest star in the sky, it will shine with the brilliance of the North Star, making it a captivating sight for those who are lucky enough to witness it.

So, mark your calendars and keep an eye on the night sky. A dazzling new star is about to make its grand entrance, offering a rare glimpse into the wonders of the cosmos.

Source: University of Colorado Boulder.