29 Apr 2024

Time ticking down for next nova explosion

From Nights, 9:30 pm on 29 April 2024

Star gazers are set for a treat any day now as a star system 3,000 light years away is on the verge of lighting up with a thermonuclear explosion.

Every eighty years, a nova called T Coronae Borealis spectacularly erupts, appearing as a new star in the sky. 

It was first officially recorded in 1866 but could have been observed as far back as 1217.

Emile Donovan speaks to Professor Jan Eldridge, head of physics at the University of Auckland, whose research is focused upon the lives and deaths of stars.

Artist's impression of a white dwarf, G29-38, accreting planetary material from a circumstellar debris disk. When the planetary material hits the white dwarf surface, a plasma is formed and cools via detectable X-ray emission.