Some of the brightest stellar explosions in the galaxy may be flying under astronomers' radar, a new study suggests.
Researchers using observations from a sun-studying satellite detected four novas — exploding stars not quite as bright or dramatic as supernovas. The scientists were able to follow the explosions in intricate detail over time, including before the novas reached maximum brightness.
While other astronomers had discovered all four novas before, two of them escaped detection until after they had reached peak luminosity, the study revealed. This fact suggests that many other stellar explosions — even some that are incredibly bright — may be occurring unnoticed, researchers said. [Illustration of nova]
"So far, this research has shown that some novae become so bright that they could have been easily detected with the naked eye by anyone looking in the right direction at the right time, but are being missed, even in our age of sophisticated professional observatories," study lead author Rebekah Hounsell, a graduate student at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) in England, said in a statement.
The new observations are also allowing scientists to study nova explosions in unprecedented detail, according to researchers.