Just a quick update — some happy, some sad.

Back on March 21 I pointed out that there was a nova (called Nova Cas 2021, or V1405 Cas) in the constellation Cassiopeia that was brightening but hadn’t yet done so enough to be visible to the naked eye.  It rose to magnitude +7.5 or so, and then slowly declined to magnitude +8 by early April.  It looked like that would be the end of the story.   

But to everyone’s surprise, starting around May 4, it suddenly began to brighten rapidly, and at last check on May 9 it had reached magnitude +5.5, visible to the naked eye!   

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In fact, here it is brightening from just May 5 to May 8 — the difference is quite apparent:

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Nova Cas 2021 brightens from May 5 (left) to May 8 (right).  Compare it to the maginitude +6.6 star called HIP 115691 to its immediate lower left.  Open cluster M52 appears at the top center.

The last time we had a nova that was this bright in the Northern Hemisphere was in 2015, when V5668 Sagittarii appeared.  

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V5668 Sagittarii captured from the Indian Himalayas before dawn on March 21, 2015.  Look for the arrow above the trees near the center of the photo

If you do happen to spot Nova Cas 2021, glide your eyes up toward the zenith just a skosh, and you may catch Messier 52 (M52) — an open cluster of apparent magnitude between +5 and +7, and lying between 3,000 and 7,000 light-years away, depending on who you ask — that will look like a little smudge, maybe visible with the naked eye but easily so with binoculars:

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A closer look at M52 (first noted by Charles Messier on September 7, 1774):

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Messier 52

Will Nova Cas 2021 keep brightening?  It’s certainly on the upswing, so let’s hope it keeps going!

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If you’ve read my diaries or comments over the last few years, you’ll know that my mother, The Educator, has always been an inspiration to me for discovery, for taking care of all kinds of creatures, and for having the gumption to do things people say you can’t do.  I’m sorry to say that she passed away a couple of weeks ago.  That’s why I’ve not been here much recently.  My family, as well as her many students over the years, miss her terribly.  But all the positive ways she influenced us?  Thankfully, we get to keep that.  The best way I can honor her is to keep learning, and to try to keep inspiring others to do the same.  Nova Cas 2021 brightening all of a sudden just a coincidence?  Well………

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