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It looks like a nuclear bomb and happens once in a lifetime. What you should know about the bright cosmic explosion that NASA promises this summer

Anna BoklajukNews
A rare eruption of light from a dim star is likely to be visible to people on Earth this summer. Source: nasa.gov

A rare eruption of light from a dim star is likely to be visible to people on Earth this summer in a fleeting but potentially dramatic celestial display. Scientists are calling it a "once-in-a-lifetime event."

The flare will be brief. After the eruption, it will be visible to the naked eye for less than a week, but NASA scientists are confident that it will be a real spectacle, nasa.gov reports.

Around September, scientists expect a nova in the Milky Way's Northern Crown to send a flash into space so powerful that it can be seen with the naked eye. It will materialize in a dark spot in the constellation, where a violent interaction between a white dwarf and a red giant should culminate in this powerful explosion.

Nova is the technical term for the upcoming explosion, which will occur when a white dwarf suddenly and frequently flashes brightly in the night sky. Scientists emphasize that this term should not be confused with Supernova, another solar phenomenon that can be seen from Earth when a star explodes.

A"white dwarf" is how astronomers describe a star at the end of its life cycle after it has exhausted all its nuclear fuel and only its core remains.

A"red giant" is a dying star in the final phase of its life cycle that is becoming increasingly turbulent as it expands and periodically ejects material from its outer layers in intense episodes.

The white dwarf and red giant, known collectively as T Coronae Borealis, also called the "Blazing Star," which are predicted to create Novy this summer, form a double star system in the Northern Crown, located about 3,000 light-years from Earth. According to NASA, the red giant in this pair is constantly being stripped of hydrogen as it continues on its path to complete collapse, while the white dwarf nearby pulls this material into its orbit. The hydrogen flowing out of the red giant accumulates on the surface of the white dwarf over several decades, until the heat and pressure reach a level that triggers a full-scale thermonuclear explosion.

The explosion, which looks like a nuclear bomb, rids the dead star of excess material. The eruption will probably be visible on Earth for about a week before it disappears again, but both the white dwarf and the red giant in the Blazing Star system will remain intact when it fades away. At this point, the process of hydrogen accumulation between the two stars resumes, and it will continue until the next time the accumulation of material on the white dwarf reaches its threshold and explodes.

Different binary systems, such as T Coronae Borealis, move through this cycle at different speeds. Typically, a nova flares with a Blazing Star about every 80 years.

"There are a few recurring novae with very short cycles, but generally we don't often see a recurring outburst in a human lifetime, and rarely one that is relatively close to our system. It's incredibly exciting to see with our own eyes," CbsNews quoted scientist Rebecca Hounsell, an assistant researcher specializing in novae at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as saying.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will create a lot of new astronomers by giving young people a space event that they can observe on their own, ask their questions, and collect their data," Rebecca said, adding that it should fuel the next generation of scientists.

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