Astronomy's Oldest Known 'Nova' a Cosmic Case of Mistaken Identity

March 23, 2015 9:58 PM

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Astronomy's Oldest Known 'Nova' a Cosmic Case of Mistaken Identity

The remnant of CK Vulpeculae, previously known as the oldest recorded nova. Shown here, CK Vulpeculae is surrounded by a dusty torus (yellow), cool molecular gas (red) and hot atomic gas (blue). This image was taken using APEX & SMA (dust and molecular emission at submillimeter wavelengths, Kamiński et al. 2015) and Gemini (optical atomic emission, Hajduk et al. 2007).

Cosmic detectives are investigating a case of mistaken stellar identity: An exploding star that was once thought to be the oldest recorded nova — a nuclear explosion on the surface of a dead star — was more likely caused by the merger of two stars.

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