Micronova, a new type of thermonuclear explosion

Jay Kakade
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Micronova
Illustration by artist depicting impression of mcronova. (Mark Garlick/Durham University)

Researchers have discovered a type of explosion called as Micronova, which appears on the surface of white dwarfs. The accumulation of matter on the surface of white dwarf results into a burst called Micronova.

According to astronomers, this explosion has been experienced from thousands of kilograms of stellar matter. Such a new types of phenomena could help us understanding death of star in better way.

In order to understand burst in simple, astronomers mentioned a comparison which says, burst matter was equivalent to a thousand of moon’s masses.

According to astrophysicist the phenomenon we observed was very new. Hence, they called it a micronova. Micronova challenged our understanding of star explosions.

Earlier it was thought we new such phenomenon, but this identification proposed a total new way to study star explosions.

How Micronova Explosion Occurs?

White Dwarf is also called as a dead star. Actually, Dead star is remains of core a star that have lost its fuel and outer material is ejected. Neutron Star and Black Hole are also a type of dead stars in different mass comparisons.

But these white dwarfs are very dense and has mass up to 1.4 times of mass of the sun. Such immense mass is filled in sphere of size of earth. Most of them are usually found in binary systems. We have observed 10 such binary systems in the milky way.

This star (in binary system) whirl around each other and sheds hydrogen. This hydrogen is accumulated on white dwarf’s surface. Which later heats up.

With time, the mass becomes so dense that pressure and temperature at surface triggers an explosion. This violent expelling of material is called a Nova.

But the micronova is considered to be a smaller version of the explosion.

TESS Identified first Micronova?

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was the first telescope to capture macronova. TESS is equipped to capture very small brightness from orbiting exoplanets. When exoplanet passes by a star causes a small dimming.

But in this case bright flashes rather than dimming. This allowed a new search for such events. Astronomers thought it as a Nova. But flashes were too small to be nova. The study observed this events and named it as Micronova.
Scaringi, S., Groot, P.J., Knigge, C. et al. Localized thermonuclear bursts from accreting magnetic white dwarfs. Nature 604, 447–450 (2022)/ DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04495-6
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