Fermi detects gamma-rays from a nova for the first time

Date:15 August 2010 Tags:

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

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