An illustration of a white dwarf star


During a nova, a white dwarf star suddenly becomes thousands of times brighter as it blasts gas and dust into space.

A nova is not the same as a supernova, a much more violent type of explosion that destroys a star and leaves behind a black hole or neutron star. It is thought that novae can be triggered when a white dwarf star and a much larger red giant star orbit one another. If the red giant expands into the gravitational field of the white dwarf, the white dwarf steals its matter until it becomes unstable and explodes. The white dwarf then settles down and the process can repeat itself.

Image: An illustration showing a white dwarf stealing matter from a companion star (credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

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An illustration of a white dwarf star


A white dwarf star may steal matter from a companion red giant.

About Novae

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