Nasa’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope has detected gamma-rays from a nova for the first time. The finding stunned observers and theorists alike because it overturns a long-standing notion that novae explosions lack the power for such high-energy emissions.
A nova is a sudden, short-lived brightening of an otherwise inconspicuous star. The outburst occurs when a white dwarf in a binary system erupts in an enormous thermonuclear explosion.
In March, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) detected gamma rays – the most energetic form of light – from the nova star, known as V407 Cyg, for 15 days. Scientists believe that the emission arose as a 1,6 million-kilometre-per-hour shock wave raced from the site of the explosion.
Watch V407 Cyg go nova!
Credit: Nasa/Conceptual Image Lab/Goddard Space Flight Centre
* News: Fermi detects “shocking” surprise from supernova’s little cousin