Rob McNaught at Siding Spring, Coonabarabran, NSW found a magnitude 5.3 object in the constellation Reticulum on July 15 2020.
I observed the nova at around 5:30am this morning (July 17) in 7×50 binoculars. My estimate, based upon 4.95 and 5.45 visual magnitude comparison stars, was 5.2.
It may have been brighter but that was my best estimate, given the seeing quality at the time, and a lack of coffee. Having said that, I’m confident that it was reasonable.
At the time of my submission to AAVSO this morning, there were 6 observations, including mine. Andrew Pearce in WA submitted his second observation (brighter) soon after mine.
This is the first bright nova since 2018! So I’m a little bit excited.
To get familiar with the field, I started with Stellarium:
and this AAVSO finder chart, which needs to be rotated by about 45 degrees anti-clockwise to match the Stellarium view:
In general, the sky was lovely this morning. After estimating the nova’s brightness, when the dawn became evident, I took this quick shot of a conjunction of the crescent Moon, Venus, and Aldebaran (alpha Tauri) low in the NE sky (1/5 sec, ISO 200, f 2.0, unprocessed) with our recently pruned walnut tree (thanks Karen!) visible at upper right:
Between the nova, satellites passing through my binocular field while observing it and the stars of Reticulum, a stray meteor, the Luna-Venus-Aldebaran conjunction, Orion rising in the east, and the general beauty of the sky, it was an uplifting start to the day.
I was again reminded that there is a hidden sky, waiting for all to see.
Variable stars and novae in particular, always reinforce to me the dynamic, constantly changing universe of which we are a small part. In what often feels like a dystopian world, especially in 2020, I find it oddly comforting that the Universe just keeps doing its thing, irrespective of us. Astronomy is a great way to get some perspective.