Nova Scorpii

March 25, 2007

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Provided and copyright by: Rick Stankiewicz
Summary authors & editors: Rick Stankiewicz

On February 4th, two Japanese astronomers independently discovered a new star, V1280 Scorpii, in the constellation Scorpius. Nova Scorpii 2007 (or technically V1280 Scorpii) is the name given to this new discovery. Even though this “new” star was already there (as a white dwarf), it just recently attained a sufficient brightness to be noticed here on Earth. This nova's new found brilliance will last for only a matter of weeks, and then it'll fade again. The process of energy transfer from the white dwarf's larger binary star companion (probably a red giant), responsible for increasing its brightness, started about 400 years ago. It has taken light from the resulting explosion all this time to reach us -- traveling at the speed of light (300,000 km/sec).

Nova Scorpii 2007 acquired a brightness of magnitude 3.8 (naked eye visibility) on February 16th. By the time I made the attached image on the morning of February 21st, it had dimmed to about magnitude 5.5. I needed binoculars to see it on both the 20th and 21st.

Photo details: A four mega-pixel camera piggybacked on a Meade ETX 90 telescope captured this image in a 43 seconds exposure at 100 ASA. Epsilon, the fifth brightest star in Scorpius (mag. 2.3; 65 ly away) is used as a reference star for locating Nova Scorpii 2007.

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