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Nova explosion in a cataclysmic variable star

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Credit

MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Animation of a nova explosion in a cataclysmic variable star. This is a system containing two stars, one a white dwarf. A white dwarf is an extremely dense remnant of a Sun-like star that has burnt all its fuel. The high density of the dwarf causes it to accrete material, mostly hydrogen, from its companion star. This forms a growing layer on the dwarf surface. When this layer reaches a critical density and temperature, fusion reactions occur in an explosive event, rapidly and dramatically increasing the brightness of the system for a short time. The explosion does not destroy the star, which goes back to accumulating infalling matter again.

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  • Duration: 00:00:38.12
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  • Format: Photo JPEG 100% QuickTime movie

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  • Codec: JPEG

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