Finding Nova Delphini 2013

I’ve talked about Nova Delphini 2013 and shown light curves but if you want to observe the nova, how do you find it?

The first thing to say is that now is a good time to look. As I write this, it’s still bright (magnitude 5.2 but starting a decline).


No-one knows  exactly what it will do next.

Start by finding the distinctive (it looks like  tadpole to me) constellation of Delphinus, near Aquila. The following Stellarium screenshot may help. The ringed cross hairs show the approximate location of the nova. Tonight the moon (not shown) is off to the right of bright Altair, a useful reference point.


Go to AAVSO’s variable star plotter and enter Nova Del 2013 and 12531AWO into the text boxes shown below. Select the “Printable” option further down on the form and click “Plot Chart”.

Creating 12531AWO

This will give you a finder chart that looks like this (click on it to enlarge):


The nova is marked with cross hairs. The numbers are the magnitude of known comparison stars (without full-stops, so 47 = 4.7). The task is to determine which comparison star is closest to the nova’s magnitude or more likely, which pair of comparison stars the nova falls between in brightness.

This finder chart is rich in comparison stars, and the main asterism of the “head” of Delphinus is quite distinct. I use 7×50 binoculars to observe the nova and comparison stars from my suburban backyard.

So, weather permitting, go out and have a look while the nova is still bright enough to be fairly easy to spot. Take your time and enjoy lingering over a patch of sky you may not normally and if you spot the nova, think about that shell of material that’s expanding at around 1000 km/sec from an explosion of about 30 earth masses of matter accumulated onto a white dwarf from its companion with a luminosity increase of 100,000 suns.

Potentially perspective-changing stuff…

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