NASA is waiting for a rare nova explosion


Around the world this summer, professional and amateur astronomers alike will be fixed on one small constellation deep in the night sky.
It’s a dark spot among them where an impending nova event – so bright it will be visible on Earth with the naked eye – is poised to occur.
Don’t confuse a nova with a supernova, a final, titanic explosion that destroys some dying stars, Hounsell said.
In a nova event, the dwarf star remains intact, sending the accumulated material hurtling into space in a blinding flash.
If the pattern continues, some researchers say, the nova event could occur by September 2024.
“We’ll observe the nova event at its peak and through its decline, as the visible energy of the outburst fades,” Hounsell said.
Is there a chance September will come and go without the anticipated nova outburst from T CrB?
We’ll see how T CrB behaves.” Learn more about NASA astrophysics at:


This summer, a single, tiny constellation located far up in the night sky will be the focus of astronomers worldwide, both amateur and professional. However, this fascination is not due to the seven stars of Corona Borealis, also known as the “Northern Crown.”.

An imminent nova event, bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye from Earth, is about to take place at this dark spot among them.

“A lot of young people will be astronomers because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that allows them to observe a cosmic event, ask questions, and gather data on their own,” stated Dr. Rebekah Hounsell, an assistant research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, with expertise in nova events. It will inspire the following generation of researchers. “.

T Coronae Borealis, also called the “Blaze Star” and simply referred to by astronomers as “T CrB,” is a binary system that is located 3,000 light-years from Earth in the Northern Crown. The system consists of an old red giant that is gradually losing hydrogen due to the forceful gravitational attraction of its ravenous neighbor, and a white dwarf, an Earth-sized remnant of a dead star with a mass similar to our Sun.

Pressure and heat build up on the white dwarf’s surface as a result of the red giant’s hydrogen accreting there. It eventually sets off a massive enough thermonuclear explosion to blast away the accumulated material. That event seems to happen again for T CrB, on average, every 80 years.

According to Hounsell, a nova is not to be confused with a supernova, which is the ultimate, massive explosion that kills some dying stars. When a nova event occurs, the dwarf star stays intact and shoots the accumulated material in a brilliant flash into space. The cycle usually repeats itself over tens or hundreds of thousands of years, depending on how long the process lasts.

“Although there are a few recurrent novae with extremely brief cycles, repeated outbursts are uncommon in human lifetimes, and especially not one this close to our own system,” according to Hounsell. I’m thrilled to be sitting in the front row. “.

Locating the Coronae Borealis T.

The T CrB nova was first observed over 800 years ago in the autumn of 1217 by a man by the name of Burchard, who was the abbot of Ursberg, Germany. Burchard reported seeing “a faint star that for a time shone with great light.”. “.

1946 was the last time Earth saw the T CrB nova. Its actions during the last ten years seem to be very similar to those that were seen during the same period of time just before the eruption in 1946. According to certain researchers, if the current trend persists, the nova event might transpire by September 2024.

Stargazers should aim to spot the Northern Crown, which is best seen on clear nights and is a horseshoe-shaped curve of stars west of the Hercules constellation. Arcturus and Vega, the two brightest stars in the Northern Hemisphere, can be found. Follow a straight line from one to the other to find Hercules and the Corona Borealis.

This will be a fleeting outburst. Hounsell is optimistic that it will be quite a sight to behold. The eruption will be visible to the unaided eye for just under a week.

an organized scientific method.

Dr. In agreement was Elizabeth Hays, head of NASA Goddard’s Astroparticle Physics Laboratory. The excitement of amateur stargazers, whose love of unusual space occurrences has contributed to a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with NASA, is, according to her, one of the enjoyable aspects of getting ready to watch the event.

According to Hays, “citizen scientists and space enthusiasts are always searching for those strong, bright signals that identify nova events and other phenomena.”. They will send out instant alerts via email and social media, raising the flag. We are relying on the worldwide community engagement with T CrB once more. “.

Since 2008, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has been observing gamma rays from low Earth orbit. Hays is the telescope’s project scientist. When the nova eruption is detected, Fermi and other space-based missions like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer), NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array), NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer), and the European Space Agency’s INTEGRAL (Extreme Universe Surveyor) will be ready to observe T CrB. Many optical imagers and ground-based radio telescopes will also participate, such as the Very Large Array of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico. All together, the different telescopes and instruments will record information in both visible and non-visible light spectrums.

“We will monitor the nova event during its zenith and downslope, as the observable energy of the eruption diminishes,” stated Hounsell. However, gathering data during the early stages of the eruption is just as important, so the information gathered by enthusiastic citizen scientists who are currently searching for the nova will be extremely helpful to our research. “.

That offers a unique chance for astrophysics researchers to learn more about the dynamics and structure of recurrent stellar explosions like this one.

According to Hays, “nova events are usually so faint and far away that it’s difficult to clearly identify where the erupting energy is concentrated.”. The focus will be on closely observing this one, analyzing its different wavelengths, and hopefully obtaining information that will enable us to begin deciphering its structure and particular functions. We eagerly await the complete picture of the situation. “.

That includes some very fresh eyes. When T CrB erupted last, in 1946, there were no gamma-ray imagers on the scene. Additionally, the polarization capability of IXPE, which measures the arrangement and alignment of electromagnetic waves to ascertain the internal workings and structure of high-energy phenomena, is a novel instrument in X-ray astronomy. When their data are combined, it may provide previously unheard-of insight into the life cycles of binary systems and the fading but potent stellar processes that drive them.

Experts agree there are no guarantees – but hope endures. Is there a chance September will pass without the expected nova outburst from T CrB?

According to Dr. Koji Mukai, a fellow NASA Goddard astrophysics researcher, “recurrent novae are unpredictable and contrarian.”. “They follow a set pattern even when you can’t imagine why they would, and the moment you start to depend on them to keep repeating it, they stop doing so altogether. T CrB’s behavior will be observed. “.

Visit to find out more about NASA’s astrophysics program.

Astrophysics at

scroll to top