Credit:ESA/ XMM-Newton/ EPIC (adapted from A. Read et al.), Background: SuperCOSMOS Sky Surveys
Stumbled Upon Nova
What if a star exploded and nobody noticed? It almost happened, and would have, too, except for the sharp eyes of the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory. XMM was busily moving from one target to another, but like all good observers kept its eyes opened. During this maneuver it happened to see a bright X-ray source that wasn't there previously. An alert went out to the astronomical community, who then trained powerful telescopes at the XMM-Newton source, and found a star that had brightened by over 600 times. The image above shows a picture of this region of the sky from the SuperCOSMOS Sky Surveys, with the XMM-Newton X-ray contours superimposed. This star was a novae, a white dwarf star that got dumped on by a neighbor, and finally decided to blow its top. Interestingly, X-ray emission from novae usually can be detected only days after a nova reaches maximum brigthness. For some odd reason, this star, now known as V598 Puppis, slipped through the net of dedicated astronomers who scan the sky for just these explosions, and no one saw it near its brightest. How many more have got away?
Published: August 4, 2008
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:28:21 EDT