New supernova in the Pinwheel galaxy now visible with a telescope
Dear astronomers, rejoice: there is a new supernova in the night sky. Although not visible to the naked eye, the supernova is bright enough to be seen through a small telescope, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.
Space.com reports that “This new supernova appeared in a galaxy beyond our own. The galaxy is known as the Pinwheel Galaxy (also referred to as Messier 101, or M101), and is a large, loosely coiled, spread out, open-faced spiral galaxy through a small telescope.”
The supernova, the second closest to Earth in a decade, is dubbed SN 2023ixf by the International Astronomical Union. It was discovered by Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki four days ago.
How can I see the supernova?
The Pinwheel galaxy is located on the boundary between Ursa Major (the big bear) and Boötes the shepherd, Space.com said. “If you locate the Big Dipper, imagine a line extending from two of the stars in the handle, Alioth and Mizar. Continuing this line a similar distance beyond Mizar will place one in the general vicinity of the galaxy.”
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What is a supernova?
A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that occurs in space, according to NASA. SN 2023ixf is a Type II supernova, an explosion that occurs after a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses.
The galaxy that contains the supernova is “only” about 21 million light-years away, NASA said, making it the closest supernova observed in the past five years, the second closest in the past 10 years and the second supernova found in M101 in the past 15 years.
The image above shows the galaxy two days ago with the supernova highlighted.
SN 2023ixf will likely brighten and remain visible to telescopes for months. Studying such a nearby, young Type II supernova could provide new clues about massive stars and how they exploded, NASA said.
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