Geologist and astrophotographer Colin Legg captured this photo of a shooting star – part of the Geminid meteor shower – and a “new” star or nova. He wrote on December 14:
December 13-14 mark[ed] the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. Best viewing time in the southern hemisphere between midnight and dawn. This years peak coincides with a near full moon. Normally that is a downer for meteor viewing. However, Geminids often contain fireballs and they are often bright enough to shine through, moon or not. Last night I captured a fireball while the moon was still quite high, around 11 minutes after midnight.
Also visible to the naked eye in full moonlight is Nova Centauri. A new star that appeared only a week or so ago, it now shines at mag 3.7 and is located directly left of the top pointer (Beta Centauri) in the image attached. The nova is the due to a massive nuclear explosion on a white dwarf star.
SW Western Australia, 00:11 WST 14-Dec-2013
By the way, Colin said experienced sky observers are now placing the brightness of Nova Centauri at around magnitude 3.4 to 3.5. That places the nova at #16 in the all-time nova brightness list, and it makes Nova Centauri the 2nd brightest since 1975. This Astronomy Picture of the Day can help you see which of these stars in the photo above is Nova Centauri.
Thank you, Colin!
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.