Unforgettable Opportunity: Be the First to See a Stellar Explosion!


(Image credit: ESO/ L. Calçada)

- Interesting news was announced by the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) on June 29, 2023: A nova eruption is scheduled to occur between February and September of 2024 in the binary star system T Coronae Borealis (T CrB). During the eruption, it will appear as brilliant as the North Star, even though it is usually too dim to be seen with the human eye. With binoculars, you can see this celestial show for a few days to a week before it starts to fade. If citizen astronomers join the Unistellar Cosmic Cataclysm observation program, they may be among the first to see this incredible occurrence.

In simple terms, what is a nova? Novae form in binary star systems called "cataclysmic variables," which contain a white dwarf and another star in symphony with one another. White dwarfs are extremely large and dense stellar remnants that are remarkably tiny for their size. The white dwarf in T CrB takes hydrogen from its red giant companion up to a point when it can no longer take any more. The result is a nova eruption caused by a runaway nuclear reaction on its surface, which briefly reignites the white dwarf. We learn a lot about white dwarfs and binary star systems from the debris that gets ejected.

Why is T CrB being highlighted? T CrB is a well-studied nova system located 3,000 light-years away in the Corona Borealis constellation. Its recurring eruption cycle is about 80 years, making this forthcoming outburst quite rare. Since this eruption will provide a once-in-a-lifetime chance to examine a nova's early stages in great detail, astronomers are anxiously anticipating it. Scientists can learn a lot about the physical mechanisms that cause novae and how binary star systems evolve by watching T CrB during the eruption.
A report detailing Citizen Astronomer Michael Primm’s observation of T CrB on April 3, 2024

Cosmic Cataclysms is an observation program run by the SETI Institute and UNISTELLAR that aims to track T CrB for eruption indicators. Citizen astronomers are invited to participate in this study. It is highly recommended that participants keep a close eye on the night sky. Quick processing and analysis of data from Unistellar telescopes will determine if a global alarm is triggered in the event that the nova is detected. Our understanding of this fascinating celestial phenomena will be enhanced and the eruption's progress can be more easily tracked with our joint endeavor. The "Highest Priority" part of the Cosmic Alerts webpage has detailed instructions on how to observe with Unistellar telescopes.

Citizen astronomers who are interested in novae can learn a lot and make a big scientific impact by participating in the Unistellar Cosmic Cataclysm program. Some participants may even get the unique opportunity to see this extraordinary occurrence firsthand. Visit the dedicated Cosmic Cataclysms homepage to learn more about the program and to access observing instructions for UNISTELLAR telescopes.

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