Thursday, September 08, 2011

Brightest Supernova North Earthlings Have Seen in 40 Years

Visible using ordinary binoculars or amateur telescopes, this supernova experiences peak brightness tonight and tomorrow. Look for it in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) off the handle of the "Big Dipper" aka Ursa Major in the northwest sky in a clear evening just after sunset from the Northern Hemisphere of Earth. This exploding star is a Type 1a, the type used a "standard candle" for measuring galactic distances and the size and age of the Universe, and is only 21 million light-years away and was first captured on August 22. The last time a supernova of its kind was seen this close to Earth was 1972. It's a terrific opportunity for both scientists and the public to see one of the biggest booms in nature.

Numerous reports have been made including those by The Bad Astronomer, the PBS NewsHour, the International Business Times, the BBC, and Global Rent a Scope. Although it's expected to peak at 10th magnitude in the next couple days, SN 2011fe might be bright enough to see with small telescopes on Earth for a couple weeks.

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