What is a nova?

Quick explanation

A nova is a star that briefly increases its luminosity.

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A nova is an enormous nuclear explosion caused by the accretion of hydrogen onto the surface of a white dwarf.

When a white dwarf has a close companion star, the companion will often begin to have its outer atmosphere drawn away from it by the white dwarf's gravity as the companion star ages and expands into a red giant.

A nova shouldn't be confused with the much more energetic supernova, which is the explosion of a full, massive star ending its life.