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22 August 2013

Nova Delphini 2013

Okay, I gotta agree sometimes Facebook does provide useful news when it comes to niche interests. Recently an acquaintance from the astronomical society posted a star-map and prompt his readers to observe that particular patch in the night sky with a binocular or record it with a DSLR looking for the creation of a "new star".

It was a transient astronomical event called "nova" occurring within the border of constellation Delphinus (The Dolphin). To a light polluted sky, I have to admit it is quite difficult to pin down this constellation (hence its obscurity) but luckily the Dolphin was surrounded by three bright stars (an asterism astronomers called "the Summer Triangle" bounded by Deneb, Altair and Vega) and if we get the triangle in our viewfinder we are then able to capture the Dolphin and its associated new object.

My attempt in capturing Nova Delphini 2013

Initially designated PNV J20233073+2046041, Koichi Itagaki discovered this new event on the 14th of August, 2013 in Japan. When he first saw it with instruments, it was a dot in the sky not even visible to human eye glowing at magnitude 6.8. Barely days after discovery, the object now called "Nova Delphini 2013" is shining brighter at magnitude 4.5 on 16th of August. Now, magnitude 4.5 is bright enough for our eyes to perceive without optical aids but we need to get to dark observation sites; for the convenience of suburban dwellers, a small telescope or binocular would be enough to reveal this nova - provided we can find it around the Summer Triangle.  

My attempt on wide-angle higher magnification (f = 68mm). High ISO to compensate star tracking.  

At the time of my observation, photographic evaluation shows it was glowing bright yellow, spectroscopic data confirmed hydrogen gas present around the "new star" thus confirming a thermonuclear starburst from a nova. 

Novae are interesting evolutionary features in a binary star systems. It is one of the eventual outcome of two "average sized" stars gravitationally "locked" together much like two ice-skaters swiveling around each other tethered by a rope. Simply put, the sudden brightening of a star called "nova" is a beautiful process involving gravity and explosive nuclear fusion reaction in binary systems. I found a comprehensive lecture on the evolution of binary systems here, it should cover the reason for the occurrence of novae and also type Ia supernovae.

In the coming few weeks, I am interested to take another shot of this object under same photographic settings and compare its relative brightness to its surrounding stars. Finding this object with a telescope will prove to be challenging due to its small field-of-view, but darn my star-trackker was out of service (thanks to unmatching screws) just when I need it. Pfft. 

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