A nova is a sudden, short-lived brightening of an otherwise inconspicuous star caused by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf, a compact star not much larger than Earth. Novae typically originate in binary systems containing sun-like stars, as shown in this artist’s rendering. A nova in a system like this likely produces gamma rays (magenta) through collisions among multiple shock waves in the rapidly expanding shell of debris. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Related channels: WHITE DWARFS, STARS, BROWN DWARFS, THE SUN, PULSARS, QUASARS, NEUTRON STARS, BLACK HOLES, ALPHA CENTAURI