We essentially discovered it the day it blew up
(PRWEB) September 06, 2011
TelescopeKing.com - Upon the discovery of the exploding star in the M101 galaxy, it had magnitude of 17.2. By the end of August, the brightness had shot up to around a magnitude of 13. The peak of the explosion is expected to occur on September 10, and should reach a magnitude of about 10.
“We think we found it probably 12 hours after it exploded,” says astronomer Mark Sullivan of the University of Oxford in England. “The amazing thing for me is, that supernova exploded 21 million years ago. It’s taken light 21 million years to arrive. And we just happened to open up the telescope on that Wednesday night, and in came the photons.”
Amateur astronomers have been pointing their best telescopes towards the exploding stars night after night because the spectacle of this particular supernova is of interest to many. There are over hundred supernova occurrences every year but what makes this one stand out from all others is its proximity to Earth. Located in the M101 galaxy, the supernova named “ptf11kly” is a mere 21 million light years away. In galactic terms, this is very close. It’s practically just around the block! In other words, it took 21 million years for the light of the exploding star to reach Earth so in reality, the explosion really occurred 21 million years ago.
Observing a supernova in progress is like watching a star grow in size and brightness night after night until it eventually dims and leaves behind its remnant. Generally speaking the process is gradual and the object will fade from view over several weeks or months. Various types of telescopes can be used to view a supernova. Although none have been observed in our own galaxy since 1604, supernovae remnants indicate on average the event occurs about once every 50 years in the Milky Way.
View original story on sciencenews.org.
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