Photo obtained from AAVSO
|A nova in the making.|
Image obtained from Universe Today
So what is a nova?
You might be thinking, 'oh you mean its a Supernova?', No. A supernova is basically when a star destroys itself in a massive explosion. A nova occurs when a when a White Dwarf pulls hydrogen from its companion star. The hydrogen reaches the surface of the white dwarf where it is compacted and heated. The hydrogen piles up until it is dense enough and explodes like a bazillion thermonuclear bombs. This process typically repeats itself several times.
So, now to my story.
After hearing of the news of the nova I was excited to get back outside and try to photograph it. Thunderstorms developed on the afternoon of the 15th threatening my chances of observing. This was going to be my first time seeing a stellar explosion only hours after it appeared. Thankfully the skies began to clear shortly after 10pm, but, thunderstorms had formed to the West of Houston. Even though they were not going to move our way, the cloud tops were being blown East. This meant there was a small window of clear skies.
I went outside, set up the camera and started snapping a few test shots to make sure I had my settings dialed in. I had no idea where Delphinus was. Thankfully with help from an app and star charts I was able to find the stars I had determined would help me point to the nova. I zoomed in to the star Altair and snapped a photo. Altair was in the center pf my photo, Delphinus and Sagitta, my other two guide constellations were to the left. I moved my camera to where both constellations were in the center and Altair was over to the right. I snapped several photos adjusting my focus here and there. After several minutes I could see those clouds moving in from the west. So I called it a night and went inside.
Pulling the images off my camera I quickly zeroed in on one. I could see all the constellations and stars I had determined would help me find the nova. Right in the middle of all of them was a star. According to everything I had used that was Nova Del 2013. But when I would compare my image to star charts, there were a few very slight differences. Plus let's be honest. I have never done anything like this before. I can find constellations using charts but anything in between dont count on it. I spent about an hour trying to confirm on my own if I had found the nova. Eventually I posted the photo to the Houston Astronomical Society (HAS), forum and I sent the same photo via Twitter to AAVSO
The morning of the 16th I awoke to a reply from AAVSO, "Mike, Thats It, NICE Job!". All day reports were coming in that the nova was still getting brighter. Those reports continued till late on the afternoon of the 16th, when the brightness was reported to have stabilized. I had found, seen, and photographed my first explosion in space!
|Nova Delphinus 2013|
Seen through a 55mm lens.
|Nova Delphinus 2013|
Seen at 200mm.
It was exciting sharing this experience with others around the world. To see the reports flood in for two days. To see the nova for myself with my eyes and through my camera and binoculars was awesome! That i could see this happening to a star possibly thousands of light years away.
With the help of HAS this will hopefully be the second of many other observations of the night sky.
I would like to thank the folks at AAVSO for their helping me confirm I had found the nova. Thank you to Universe Today and Sky & Telescope for the very helpful star charts. Also thank you to HAS for providing the forums where I have been sharing most of my images with other local star gazers. For those wondering the app I used was Distant Suns
Just wanted to post a small update. Went back out last night, 8-18-13, and snapped a photo of Nova Del 2013 at 300mm. Its still visible through binoculars. The magnitude or brightness has dimmed some, but has remained steady for the last two and a half days. This will most likely be my last photograph of the nova. Unless it completely disappears or something dramatic happens.
|Nova Del 2013|
Seen at 300mm