Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nova Scorpii 2007

This morning I went out before sunrise and spotted in the sky Nova Scorpii 2007.

What's interesting about this star is it's classified as a nova--an exploding star. Think of it as nature's fireworks: Now you see it and now you don't. An observed nova of Scorpii's brightness happens only every few years. Astronomers estimate that novas occur about 40 times a year in our Milky Way.

When first discovered by two Japanese astronomers on Sunday, February 4th, the star's brightness was classified as 9th magnitude. Twelve days later on Friday, February 16th, it's brightness peaked at 3.9.

From my position in Little River, KS (38.4 N and 98.01 W), at about 6:20am (CST), I couldn't see it with the naked eye, but with a pair of cheap binoculars, it was easy to view.

It appeared slightly brighter than its neighboring three stars pictured in the illustration seen above.

By no means am I an amateur astronomer. Unlike "amateurs" in other fields, non-professional astronomers make significant contributions on a regular basis. I'm definitely a novice. I know a few constellations, but not much more.

But living in the big open skies of Kansas, star gazing is great entertainment.

No comments: