Almost 600 years ago, in 1437, a group of Korean astrologers discovered a brand new star near the constellation of Scorpius. They were able to witness it for 14 days and after that it faded from the view. Analyzing these ancient astronomical records, modern astronomers have come to a conclusion that what the Korean Astrologers witnessed was a nova explosion, but until now they were unable to identify the binary system that caused the explosion.
The recovered novae is currently experiencing some small scale ‘dwarf-nova’ eruptions. This finding may be decisive to testify an untested theory that predicts novae go through a long term cycle right after the eruption, fading until it’s un-observable for hundreds of years and then back to life and accumulate until becoming a full-fledged novae once again.
The Conclusive Evidence
‘It’s the first ever novae that has been successfully recovered based on almost 2,500 years old astronomical records from Korean and Chinese,’ said Michael Shara, the lead contributor of the paper, from Astrophysics department, American Museum of National History.
A novae is basically a hydrogen packed bomb mostly originates in binary-star system, where one of the two stars is a white dwarf, sucking all the accreted matter from its companion, which can be either a red giant or a sub-giant star (like our sun). The white-dwarf accumulates an extraordinary amount of hydrogen in a time period of over 100,000 years. Eventually, it blasts off, exhibiting an intense surge of light. Most of the times the light is so immense that it becomes 300,000 times brighter than the sun for anywhere in the observable universe, which only lasts until a few days or a couple of months.
B-band the old nova, captured on 10 June 1923.
Journal Source: Proper-motion age dating of the progeny of Nova Scorpii AD 1437
Shara along with Richard Stephenson, an expert on Asian historical records and astrophysicist Mike Bode from John Moores University has been trying to find this novae for years and finally discovered its exuded shell. The team confirmed their findings with the help of an archived report. It was a photographic plate taken almost a century ago in 1923 by the Harvard Observatory situated in Peru, which is now openly available through DASCH project.
Recovered nova of AD 1437 and its ejected shell
‘With this, we could point out how far the star has shifted in a century since the image was first taken,’ said Shara. ‘Next we looked back six centuries, and there it was right at the center. The clock, assured us that we are most probably right.’
Now, we have a strong evidence that these binaries are different phases of their extremely long lives, for example, an egg, a caterpillar, a pupa and butterfly are different phases of life forms but of the same organism.’ explained Shara. ‘Unlike watching egg evolving into a butterfly with your own eyes, we cannot possibly observe their entire cycle which span over millions of years. We simply cannot just live that long to witness a complete stellar cycle.’
The observations were done with the help of the Southern African Large Telescope or SALT and Swope, Dupont telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory.