Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nearby Galaxy M82 Hosts a New Supernova!

http://www.slate.com/
By Phil Plait

I woke up to some great science news: A supernova has gone off in the nearby galaxy M82!

This is terribly exciting for astronomers. M82 is pretty close as galaxies go, less than 12 million light years away. That means we have an excellent view of one of the biggest explosions in the Universe, and we’ll be able to study it in great detail!

The supernova has the preliminary designation of PSN J09554214+6940260. I know, that’s awful—it’s based on the star’s coordinates—but it’ll get a name soon enough that’ll be easier on the eyes and brain.

And just to get this out of the way, we’re in no danger from this explosion. It’s far too far away. Also, you won’t be able to just go outside, look up, and see it. Right now it’s too faint to see without a telescope. But the good news is it appears to have been discovered about two weeksbefore it hits peak brightness. Supernovae get brighter over time before fading away, and this one may get as bright as 8th magnitude, which is within range of binoculars. Right now it’s at about 12thmagnitude; the faintest star you can see with your naked eye is about mag 6 (note that the numbers run backwards; a bigger number is a fainter object).

M82 is in Ursa Major, well placed for viewing right now in the Northern Hemisphere.Universe Today has a map to show you how to find it.

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