According to new sky reports there may be a candidate nova now quickly brightening in the summer constellation Sagittarius. Discovered independently by two Japanese backyard astronomers, Koichi Itagaki and Yukio Sakurai on June 26, 2012 the star dubbed PNV J17522579-2126215, previously not visible, flared to 9th magnitude making it a faint but easy target for most small backyard telescopes.
Sakurai, using nothing more than his DSLR camera equipped with a 180mm telephoto lens even managed to capture the feeble light from this erupting star.
Discoveries of stars going nova are exciting for astronomer because they represent stars that are literally blowing their stack!
We are witnessing the violent explosions of the outer atmosphere of tiny white dwarf stars. These Earth-sized hot cores of long dead Sun-like stars that end up going nova have a companion star from which they gravitationally siphon off their gases. Over time this matter accumulates on the white dwarf surface until it reaches critical temperatures and ignites in a massive thermonuclear explosion that can be seen for thousands of light years away.
Sky & Telescope reports that there is a steady stream of observational data coming in from around the world from both professional and amateur astronomers, however there is no official consensus yet if this is actually a bonafide nova. Some experts are thinking it may belong to a sub-species of exploding stars known as a dwarf nova but more observations will need to be done to determine its true identity by analyzing its light curve in the coming days.
If you want to give this erupting star a look for yourself you will find it in the northwest corner of the bright Sagittarius constellation or giant Teapot asterism – about 2° northwest of the famous Trifid Nebula (M20) – which is now in the low southern sky in the late evenings for observers across the Northern Hemisphere.
PNV J17522579-2126215’s precise celestial coordinates are at right ascension 17h 52m 25.8s, declination –21° 26′ 21.6″. The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)- an international clearing house for observational data on stars the change in brightness – has prepared this detailed finder’s chart to use at the telescope for this new star in our sky.
Will it remain shining steady or continue to brighten? While no one really knows, one thing is for sure, telescopes around the world are trained on this new stellar interloper to see what it does next.
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.