Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ALERT! Bright (Mag 5!) Nova in Centaurus

Location of Nova Centaurus 2013 as seen looking north from Adelaide at 3:00 am ACDST local time.The location is marked with a square. Similar views will be seen at the equivalent local time in other Southern Hemisphere locations. Click to embiggen.Black and White map suitable for printing at a scale useful for binoculars, view from the Southern hemisphere, click to embiggen. The circle is the approximate field of view of 10x 50 binoculars. A high definition PDF map that is better for printing is here.

UPDATE! the nova has now been reported to be as bright as magnitude 3.8! This makes it the brightest nova in years, and beats Nova Delpinis earlier this year.

Via John Goodrick and Carl Gruber, a  magnitude 5 nova has been discovered  in Centaurus
This nova has now been independently confirmed and is currently around magnitude 5.0.  It has been imaged by many amateurs. An example image is here.
Location R.A. = 13 54 47.00, Decl.= -59 09 08.0 (J2000 coordinates)

It is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye under dark sky conditions but most people will need binoculars to see it clearly. PDF map here. Unfortunately it is best seen in the early morning when the pointers are at their highest.

Stellarium simulation of the view through binoculars (actually this is equivalent to a few binocular fields stitched together for ease of explanation). The square is the location of the nova. The guide star HIP 66849 is indicated. Click to embiggen.

At magnitude 5 (or so) the nova is readily visible if you know where to look, but is a bit nondescript. It's best to hunt it with a printout of this binocular location map in your hand (use a torch with red cellophane over the end to not destroy you night vision, wait at least 5 minutes before searching so your eyes accommodate to the dark). However, this description may help you find it in binoculars as well.

This description will work for between 2-4 am, local time. Facing south, the southern cross is seen clearly to the south east (see top map above). Just below the cross, the two brightest stars above the horizon are beta (the top blue-white star, also known as Hadar) and alpha (the bottom orange star, aslo known as Rigel Kentaurus) Centauri.

Above and to the left of beta Centuari by about 3 finger widths is the dim star  HIP 66849. at magnitude 5.37 it is the brightest star aside from the nova that is near beta Centauri. The nova is almost directly between these two and currently just a trace brighter than HIP 66849.

Aim your binoculars at beta Centauri. Through the binoculars you will see two brightish stars off two the left. The one in the middle is the nova (again, consult the maps for guidance, it may need several back and forth for you to be sure you have seen it).


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