Massive Nova Explosion Will Briefly Create Light as Bright as North Star

Mar 28, 2024

Sometime between now and September, Earth dwellers will witness the effects of a massive thermonuclear blast in space. Don’t worry, it takes place 3,000 light years away. But for many days, people will be able to see a new light in the sky. And it'll be as bright as the North Star.

The rare event is called T Coronae Borealis (T CrB). It's a nova that takes place roughly every 80 years. Although, scientists can’t pinpoint the exact time when the blast can be seen from Earth.  

It's caused by the interaction between two stars: a white dwarf and a red giant. They're both in the Coronae Borealis constellation. Coronae Borealis sits among the Boötes, Hercules, and Serpens constellations. The nova occurs when the white dwarf, the dense remnant of a dead star, draws enough hydrogen away from the red giant through the force of its own gravity to set off a nuclear blast.    

“(Novas) are completely weird events,” Bradley Schaefer told Scientific American. He's a Louisiana State University astrophysicist. “When T CrB goes off, a large fraction of every telescope in the world is going to be pointed at it.”

By comparison, a supernova fully destroys an affected star. But a nova does not. A nova can also continue to be the source of future blasts.  Yet, novas are not as bright as supernovas. T CrB was first spotted by the abbot of a German monastery in 1217. Most recently, it was spotted in 1946. 

"I'm very excited. This thing is kind of like Halley's Comet — it occurs once every 75 to 80 years — but novas don't get the press Halley's Comet gets," William Cooke, a NASA official, told the BBC. "Comets always get more press."     

Thought Question: What are a few unanswered questions about our universe you’d like to explore?

Artist Rendering of T Coronae Borealis courtesy NASA/Conceptual Image Lab/Goddard Space Flight Center.

What does the word "nova" mean in this article? (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. a massive explosion that completely destroys a star
b. a dance move popular in outer space
c. an explosion on a star that makes it appear much brighter, but doesn't destroy it
d. a new planet forming
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

News brought to you by The Juice

Start a free trial today