See a Star Explosion!

GK Persei, a nova in the constellation Perseus. Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/D.Takei et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NRAO/VLA

A star in the Name A Star Live constellation Sagittarius has exploded, and you can see it now! But you better hurry as Sagittarius will soon not be visible to observers in the northern hemisphere of Earth.

The star, which has not been ‘named’ by Name A Star Live, is actually a binary star where one of the stars has stolen hydrogen from its companion. The hydrogen built up on the surface of the stellar thief and, under pressure, ignited like a hydrogen bomb. The exploded hydrogen is given off as a shell of gas that surrounds the star. (See photo above.) The star remains intact, and will likely repeat the process of sucking hydrogen from its companion until another explosion (nova) occurs in the future. When you see the nova you will see the exploded shell — although what you will see through your binoculars or telescope won’t look like the spectacular NASA photo above!

How to See the Nova

Nova in Sagittarius
Look for the nova, marked by the red dot, near the “Teapot” of Sagittarius, which will be low on the southwestern horizon shortly after sunset. You’ll need a pair of binoculars or a telescope to see it.

You should be able to see the nova with a 50mm pair of binoculars or just about any telescope. Just look for Sagittarius toward the southwest about 1 1/2 hours after sunset. You’ll notice the bright planet Mars. Just below and to the right of Mars you’ll see a group of relatively bright stars called the “Teapot.” The nova will be just to the right of the Teapot.

The nova as viewed from Sydney, Australia
The “Teapot” as viewed from Sydney, Australia, facing west after sunset.

Those of you in the southern hemisphere can also get a good look at the nova. Sagittarius will be somewhat higher in your sky after sunset compared to observers in the northern hemisphere.

Finally, don’t confuse a nova with a “supernova.” Classical novas can be considered to be “miniature” versions of supernova explosions. Supernovas signal the destruction of an entire star and can be so bright that they outshine the whole galaxy where they are found.

For more information about novas, see

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