Images by Date
Images by Category
Solar System
Stars
White Dwarfs
Supernovas
Neutron Stars
Black Holes
Milky Way Galaxy
Normal Galaxies
Quasars
Galaxy Clusters
Cosmology/Deep Field
Miscellaneous
Images by Interest
Space Scoop for Kids
4K JPG
Multiwavelength
Sky Map
Constellations
3D Wall
Photo Blog
Top Rated Images
Image Handouts
Desktops
High Res Prints
Fits Files
Image Tutorials
Photo Album Tutorial
False Color
Cosmic Distance
Look-Back Time
Scale & Distance
Angular Measurement
Images & Processing
AVM/Metadata
Getting Hard Copies
Image Use Policy
Web Shortcuts
Chandra Blog
RSS Feed
Chronicle
Email Newsletter
News & Noteworthy
Image Use Policy
Questions & Answers
Glossary of Terms
Download Guide
Get Adobe Reader
GK Persei Animations
Click for low-resolution animation
Tour of GK Persei
Quicktime MPEG With closed-captions (at YouTube)

In Hollywood blockbusters, explosions are often among the stars of the show. In space, explosions of actual stars are a focus for scientists who hope to better understand the lifecycle of their births, lives, and deaths. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have studied one particular explosion that may provide clues to the dynamics of other, much larger stellar eruptions. A team of researchers pointed the telescope at GK Persei, an object that became a sensation in the astronomical world in 1901 when it suddenly appeared as one of the brightest stars in the sky for a few days, before gradually fading away. Today, astronomers cite GK Persei as an example of a "classical nova," an outburst produced by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star, the dense remnant of a Sun-like star. Classical novas can be considered to be “miniature” versions of supernova explosions that signal the destruction of an entire star and can be so bright that they outshine the whole galaxy where they are found. Although the remnants of supernovas are much more massive and energetic than classical novas, some of the fundamental physics is the same. And since classical novas can evolve much more quickly than supernovas, astronomers can use them to study how these explosions change over time. In the case of GK Persei, astronomers were able to compare Chandra observations from 2000 and again nearly 14 years later. This information allows astronomers to observe changes in key properties of the expanding debris field from the nova, giving more insight to how these explosions contribute to the cosmic ecology.
[Runtime: 02:01]

(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)




Return to GK Persei (March 16, 2015)