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International Space Station experiment detects nova
DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 26 October 2010


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An X-ray detector on the International Space Station that alerted astronomers to a giant blast of X-rays, led to the discovery of a previously unseen nova.


Images of areas of 10 degrees in radius around the nova MAXI J1409-619, clearly seen on 17 October, but not in previous images. Image: JAXA/RIKEN/MAXI team.

The MAXI instrument, Monitor of All-Sky X-ray Image, on the Exposed Facility of the Japanese Experiment Module 'Kibo' recorded the initial blast, alerting a world wide observation campaign, including NASA's Swift Observatory, which slewed to the object nine hours later.

The Swift observations confirmed the object's presence as a previously unknown X-ray source lurking within our Milky Way in the constellation Centaurus. “The Swift observation suggests that this source is probably a neutron star or a black hole with a massive companion star located at a distance of a few tens of thousands of light years from Earth in the Milky Way,” says David Burrows, lead scientist for Swift’s X-ray Telescope.


Swift's detection of MAXI J1409-619. Image: MAXI/Swift team.

Nova result from the accretion of hydrogen onto a white dwarf star from a companion body, which subsequently ignites and causes runaway nuclear fusion. The enormous amount of energy liberated in this process causes bright outbursts, as likely occurred in the case of MAXI J1409-619 earlier this month.

“The collaboration between the MAXI and Swift teams allowed us to quickly and accurately identify this new object,” says Swift X-ray Telescope instrument scientist Jamie Kennea, at Penn State University. “MAXI and Swift’s abilities are uniquely complementary, and in this case have provided a discovery that would not have been possible without combining the knowledge obtained from both.”

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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