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Sunday, February 25, 2007


A second unaided eye Nova in Scorpius?

Map of the eastern horizon in the Southern hemisphere at around 4:30 am (daylight saving time). The circle shows the field of view of a pair of 10x50 binoculars, the red crosses shows the approximate location of the Novae. Click image for a larger map.

Nova location:R.A. = 16h 56m 59.35s,
Decl. = -35deg 21' 50.2" (epoch 2000.0)

UPDATE: binocular map fixed (see below)
Enlarged view, the area of the two novae, in roughly the field of view of 10x50 binoculars. The yellow circles show the location of the novae. Stars are shown down to magnitude 9. The novae, being 5.2 and 6 (or greater) magnitude respectively, will be about as bright as the reddish star near the middle of the field. Click image for larger map.

A second nova, V1281 SCO, has been found just 3 degrees from V1280 SCO, the unaided eye nova from last week. The second nova has brightened rapidly, and the last report had it around magnitude 6, the threshold for unaided eye visibility under dark sky conditions.

What will happen now is uncertain. It might rapidly fade again, or it might continue to brighten. Anyway, take a look this and the next few mornings, if you are lucky you could see a second bright nova. At this stage observers are best advised to use binoculars to locate the nova. Nova V1280 is still bright enough to see with the unaided eye in dark sky locations, at magnitude 5.2 it is fading slowly. It will be a rare treat indeed to see two novae in the same field of view of a pair of binoculars.

UPDATE EXPLANATION: I (laboriously) manually placed the red crosses in the previous version of the binocular map, and it turns out I slightly misplaced the V1280 Sco cross. Of course, if my brain was working, I would have used SkyMaps quick catalog to place accurate locations on the map in the first place, which I have done now for this version. Thanks to SteveB for picking this up.

So, this second supernova doesn't have a message encoded on it? One idea for talking to extra terrestials is to turn around once you see a supernova and shine your laser beam that way. ET's astronomers will be looking anyway, and so have a good chance at figuring out your puzzling signal.
Actually, that's a rather cool idea. But you have to have a very BIG laser on standby waiting for nova, if extraterrestrial SETI programs are like ours, they will be chronically underfunded (or they could use the message laser to lauch exploratory solar sails in the down time)
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