Colliding stars could explain 17th-century mystery explosion

March 23, 2015 5:17 PM

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Some of sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry’s great­est as­tro­no­mers, in­clud­ing He­ve­lius, the fa­ther of lu­nar map­mak­ing, and Cas­si­ni, who dis­cov­ered four of Sat­urn’s moons, care­fully doc­u­mented the ap­pearance of a “new star” in 1670. He­ve­lius de­scribed it as “no­va sub capite Cyg­ni”—a “new star be­low the head of the Swan.” As­tro­no­mers now know it as “No­va Vul­pec­u­lae 1670.”

No­va Vul 1670 was lat­er said to be both the old­est recorded no­va—a par­tic­u­lar type of stel­lar out­burst—and the one that left the faintest traces for lat­er stu­dy.

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