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Brand new supernova spotted in the cigar galaxy: How to see it

A new supernova has just been discovered, and if you have access to a telescope and clear skies, you may be able to see it yourself.

Supernovas are extremely bright stellar explosions that can briefly glow brighter than an entire galaxy. This one is a Type Ia supernova, which means it used to be a white dwarf star. Then it exploded so powerfully that its stellar remains shot through the universe at more than 12,500 miles per second, according to Sky and Telescope.

Although the light from this supernova is just reaching us now, the dramatic event actually occurred roughly 12 million years ago in a cigar-shaped galaxy called Messier 82. At the center of the galaxy is a gas-filled, star-forming region. As you can see in the image above, the star explosion occurred slightly to the right of that stellar nursery. (Click through the gallery to find a picture of the galaxy before the supernova exploded).

One of the first people to see and report the new supernova was a group of students from the University College London, who spotted it on Tuesday evening. And the good news is that it appears to be two weeks away from its peak brightness. 

So, how can you see it? According to Sky and Telescope, it is at a magnitude of 11.5, which means you will need a telescope. The galaxy lies between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper constellations. (Check out Sky and Telescope's sky map).

Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at the magazine, writes that the galaxy is up in the northeastern sky by 7 or 8 p.m. local time for sky watchers at mid-northern latitudes. 

Happy viewing!

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