University of Edinburgh
 

BSL Astronomy Glossary - nova - definition

Definition: When two stars next to each other, known as a binary, are dying and one becomes a red giant and the other a white dwarf, the white dwarf will orbit the red giant. As it orbits, the stronger gravitational pull of the white dwarf draws gases from the red giant. These gases then explode, causing intermittent flashes of light known as nova.