Possible Nova in Sagittarius

A flaring star discovered independently by two Japanese observers has brightened to near 9th magnitude — putting it within easy range of most backyard telescopes.

New nova in Sagittarius?
A brightening star is obvious at center in this comparison of a red-light image taken last night (June 27.3 Universal Time) with an archived image from the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. The field is 20 arcseconds wide.
E. Guido / G. Sostero / N. Howes
Observers are a-twitter with news that a likely nova has flared into prominence in northwest Sagittarius. Now nearing 9th magnitude, it's within reach of backyard observers with modest telescopes.

The star, designated PNV J17522579-2126215 by the IAU's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, was first reported yesterday by two independent observers. In Yamagata, Japan, Koichi Itagaki saw on images taken June 26th with an 8-inch reflector and CCD camera. A day earlier, Yukio Sakurai of Mito, Japan, had recorded it with his DSLR camera and a 180-mm telephoto lens.

Since then others have followed up with new observations. Initially reported at magnitude 10.2 by Itagaki, the star appears to have brightened a bit. Last night Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero, and Nick Howes imaged the star remotely using a 20-inch telescope in New Mexico and determined that it had a red-light magnitude of 8.9.

Although fresh observations are streaming into the American Association of Variable Star Observers, astronomers are not yet ready to call this a true nova. László Kiss and others in Hungary took spectra using Gothard Observatory's 20-inch telescope but found no strong emissions lines. This suggests the outburst is from a low-intensity dwarf nova. But more results should determine its true nature.

Finder chart for nova in Sagittarius
A star situated just 2° from the Trifid Nebula (M20) flared to prominence in late June 2012. Click on the image to view or download a detailed finder chart that corresponds to the light-blue square.
Sky & Telescope diagram
Meanwhile, in order to see this flaring star, you'll need a clear view toward the south. It'll help if your light pollution isn't too bad. But try now if you can, because in a few days the nearly full Moon will bulldoze its way into this part of the sky.

The chart at right shows the general location of PNV J17522579-2126215, which is at right ascension 17h 52m 25.8s, declination –21&deg 26′ 21.6″. It's about 2° northwest of the Trifid Nebula (Messier 20) in a patch of sky relatively free of clutter from the Milky Way's star clouds. Click on the chart to reveal a detailed finder chart, which was provided to S&T by the AAVSO's Mike Simonsen.

3 thoughts on “Possible Nova in Sagittarius

  1. Richard Gargus

    Approxemately two weeks ago, I was on the phone to my sister, standing outside, looking at the night sky. I happened to scan the area of the current nova and saw a very bright, but very brief flash, and then it faded. I made a comment that this was a very unusual event, suggesting that it was perhaps a satelite reflecting sunlight, and also jokingly said maybe it was a super nova. Could I have seen a pre nova burst of energy? If so, it would have been a huge release of energy since it was for a short time, the brightest thing in the sky.

  2. Richard Gargus

    Approxemately two weeks ago, I was on the phone to my sister, standing outside, looking at the night sky. I happened to scan the area of the current nova and saw a very bright, but very brief flash, and then it faded. I made a comment that this was a very unusual event, suggesting that it was perhaps a satelite reflecting sunlight, and also jokingly said maybe it was a super nova. Could I have seen a pre nova burst of energy? If so, it would have been a huge release of energy since it was for a short time, the brightest thing in the sky.

  3. rocksnstarstom hoffelder

    1. I’m quite certain the answer to the above question is no.

    2. Regarding the POSSIBLE nova itself, since it has already dropped below 12th magnitude visually, I’m guessing it is not a "regular" nova.

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