In 1217, a German monk looked to the starry southwest sky and noticed a normally faint star shining with unusual intensity. It continued to blaze for several days. Abbott Burchard, the leader of Ursberg Abbey at the time, recorded the sight in that year’s chronicle. “A wonderful sign was seen,” he wrote, adding that the mysterious object in the constellation Corona Borealis “shone with great light” for “many days.”

This medieval manuscript may have been the first record of a rare space phenomenon called a recurrent nova — a dead star siphoning matter from a larger companion, triggering repeated flares of light at regular intervals. According to new research, the “wonderful” star in question may be T CrB, which sits in the constellation Corona Borealis and dramatically increases in brightness for about a week every 80 years. But it has been scientifically documented only twice — once in 1866, and again in 1946. (The star’s next long-awaited flare-up is expected in 2024).

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