Explosions such as this on short timescales of decades can only be explained if the white dwarf is near the maximum mass it could have without having collapsed to become an even denser object – a neutron star during a supernova explosion.
What is also very unusual about RS Oph is that the red giant is losing enormous amounts of gas in a wind that envelops the whole system. As a result, the explosion on the white dwarf occurs effectively inside its companion's atmosphere and the ejected gas then slams into it at very high speed.
The last nova outburst of RS Oph was observed to occur on the night of Feb. 12, 2006. From its normal apparent brightness of 12.5, RS Oph suddenly grew in brightness to become visible to the naked eye. Although this was the latest in a series of such outbursts of this star that have been spotted over the last hundred years or so, it was the first one since 1985 and gave scientists an opportunity to study it with new, more powerful, telescopes on the ground and in space.
Related categories• NOTABLE STARS
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