Get out your binoculars, see a supernova!

by Anonymous on Sep. 11th, 2011

Supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy
Supernova in the Pinwheel GalaxyCourtesy Thunderf00t via Wikimedia Commons
In the coming nights, a nearby supernova should be visible using just a pair of binoculars. Located in the Pinwheel Galaxy ( aka NGC 5457) , the supernova, designated PTF 11kly was first detected earlier this week, and is estimated to be 21 million light-years from Earth - fairly close in astronomical terms. According to this report in Reuters, the supernova "will appear, blueish-white, just above and to the left of the last two stars in the Big Dipper handle". At its peak brightness, the phenomenon will outshine all the stars in the Pinwheel Galaxy. This particular kind of supernova, classified as a "Type 1a" event, takes place when an Earth-sizes white dwarf star packed with more mass than our sun suddenly explodes in a thermonuclear blaze of glory. The massive explosion blasts the star's matter out into space in all directions. This stellar material is used in the creation new stars and planets. Past supernova are the reason there are heavy elements in the universe. And speaking of the past, if you're lucky enough to spot PTF 11kly, you'll actually be looking back in time. The light from the exploding star that will be hitting your eyes this week left the Pinwheel Galaxy 21 million years ago. That's a long wait, but I'm sure it will be worth it.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

mdr's picture
mdr says:

The skies are clear here in southern Minnesota but I suspect the full Moon's going to make it more difficult to see the supernova.

posted on Mon, 09/12/2011 - 1:02pm

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