Long-term Nova Aftermath

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Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Video imagery:

  • Hubble image of the binary star HM Sagittae (HM Sge): NASA, ESA, Ravi Sankrit (STScI), Steven Goldman (STScI). 
  • Artist’s concept of the nova system HM Sagittae (HM Sge): NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

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Photos of planets, galaxies and nebulas scroll up the screen. Text: NEWS FROM THE UNIVERSE 
A bright white light comes from the middle of a disorganized pink blob. Text, June 14, 2024. Long-term nova aftermath. Binary star Mira H M Sagittae. 
Scientists recently revisited the site of an intriguing 1975 nova in our own Milky Way galaxy - a rare occurrence to catch relatively close by. 
Drawing of a red sphere as it speeds through space, away from a cloud of dust in a swirl pattern. In the middle of the swirl is a vertical column of light. Text: A nova is a white dwarf star that suddenly increases in brightness. Novae occur in binary star systems, when the white dwarf pulls a critical mass of gas from its companion. 
This system, H M Sagittae, is especially interesting because it stayed bright for decades instead of fading. 
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope showed that the white dwarf star, and the disk of material it pulled from its companion, has increased in temperature by more than 50,000 degrees since 1989. 
NASA's SOFIA mission showed water vapor moving at 18 miles, 30 kilometers, per second, likely in the disk around the white dwarf. 
These pieces will be added to the puzzle picture of H M Sagittae that scientists are still putting together as they continue to monitor the unusual system. 
This news was brought to you in part by the SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND