Thursday, January 23, 2014

supernova calling

roughly one supernova explodes in a galaxy every one hundred years.

telescopes scan the sky regularly for changes which could reveal objects like asteroids moving quickly across space or stars exploding as supernova in distant galaxies.  even with advanced technology, sometimes the automatic telescopes miss things, and a supernova that exploded in nearby galaxy M82 yesterday is one such example!

it turns out an astronomy class at the university of london observatory were imaging M82 and noticed a bright spot that didnt look familiar!

here is a before (top) and after (bottom) shot showing the bright supernova in the dusty spiral galaxy viewed from its side.

The supernova in M82
Credit: UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright
This supernova appears to be a Type 1a, meaning it was a white dwarf star that gravitationally pulled in enough gas from a neighbouring star, that it became too dense and exploded.  precisely how this happens is still a mystery, which is one of the many reasons why this relatively close explosion is so exciting!

The M81-M82 galaxy pair live in Ursa Major near the Big Dipper.
Sky and Telescope
if you live in the northern hemisphere, get your binoculars ready! the light from this stellar explosion has been traveling to us for 115 million years, and it hasnt reached its peak brightness yet!  so iver the next two weeks, have a look with binoculars or telescopes and try to spot the it

galaxies M81 (left) and M82 (right) through the milky way's haze (Credit: Ivan Eder)
here's a lovely image of M81 and M82 from APOD last year.  the fuzzy stuff that appears to be floating the space in the image is not associated with those galaxies at all.   after exposing for 25 hours, the photographer managed to capture the faint glow of the cirrus dust clouds in our own milky way galaxy.   beautiful!   


'Runa's 'rents said...

Fantastic! What does it all mean? (I delight in the fact that all information you present deposits me back in the mystery- thanks Astro!)

Brad said...

I've read that this is the third Sn in M82 in this century. Do you think our Sn rate estimates for galaxies will change now that we can watch so much more sky these days?