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Scientists Discover One of the Most Luminous ‘New Stars’ Ever

12 Oct 2017, 21:20 UTC
Scientists Discover One of the Most Luminous ‘New Stars’ Ever

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Astronomers have announced that they have discovered possibly the most luminous ‘new star’ ever – a nova discovered in the direction of one of our closest neighboring galaxies: The Small Magellanic Cloud. Astronomers from the University of Leicester contributed to the discovery by using the Swift satellite observatory to help understand what was likely the most luminous white dwarf eruption ever seen.A nova happens when an old star erupts dramatically back to life. In a close binary star system consisting of a white dwarf and a Sun-like companion star, material is transferred from the companion to the white dwarf, gradually building up until it reaches a critical pressure. Then uncontrolled nuclear burning occurs, leading to a sudden and huge increase in brightness. It is called a nova because it appeared to be a new star to the ancients.Novae are usually found in visible light, but often go on to emit higher energy X-rays as well. Together, these different datasets provide information on the white dwarf, such as its temperature and chemical composition.Using telescopes from South Africa to Australia to South America, as well as the orbiting Swift observatory, a team led by the South African Astronomical Observatory has revealed that ...

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