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How star-gazing helped scientists solve a centuries-old mystery

A shiny new star appeared within the sky in June, 1670. It was seen by the Carthusian monk Père Dom Anthelme in Dijon, France, and astronomer Johannes Hevelius in Gdansk, Poland. Over the subsequent few months, it slowly pale to invisibility.

But in March 1671, it reappeared – now much more luminous and among the many 100 brightest stars within the sky. Again it pale, and by the top of the summer season it was gone.

Then in 1672, it put in a third look, now solely barely seen to the bare eye. After a few months it was gone once more and hasn’t been seen since.

This has at all times appeared to be an odd occasion. For centuries, astronomers regarded it because the oldest known nova – a sort of star explosion. But this rationalization grew to become untenable within the 20th century.

A nova is a pretty frequent occasion, when hydrogen ignites in an in any other case extinct star inflicting a thermonuclear runaway response. Stars may explode as supernovae, following an implosion of their core. However, we all know now that neither would give the type of repeated look seen on this occasion.

So what was it? Our new analysis, revealed within the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, presents a entire new rationalization.

In 1982, the American astronomer Mike Shara discovered a nebula – an interstellar cloud of mud, hydrogen, helium and different gases – on the place of the lacking star, which had since acquired the identify CK Vul in between.

This proved that one thing had certainly occurred right here. Astronomers later famous that the nebula was increasing, and that the growth had began round 300 years in the past. But the star itself couldn’t be seen.

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