Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Supernova in nearby galaxy M82



          Electronic News Bulletin No. 368b  2014 January 22

Here is the latest round-up of news from the Society for Popular
Astronomy.  The SPA is Britain's liveliest astronomical society, with
members all over the world.  We accept subscription payments online
at our secure site and can take credit and debit cards.  You can join
or renew via a secure server or just see how much we have to offer by

By Robin Scagell

A relatively close supernova has exploded in the galaxy Messier 82

and may become bright enough to be observed in binoculars. M82 lies

about 11.4 million light-years away, which is relatively nearby,

making this already one of the brightest for many years.

Early images show the supernova as a bright blob against the cigar

shape of the galaxy, which can be found in the constellation of Ursa

Major and which is visible as a smudge in binoculars or a small


Estimates of its brightness put it at a little above 12th magnitude,

so it is a telescopic target. However, supernova experts say it was

discovered early in its explosive outburst and so could reach

magnitude 8.

The galaxy M82 is easy to find using the familiar star pattern of the

Big Dipper (also known as the Plough) which is part of the

constellation of Ursa Major. Just imagine a line extended through the

stars gamma and alpha and it will point to where the galaxy lies.

An image of the supernova was taken by SPA member Robin Scagell,

remotely using a telescope in New Mexico.

The supernova appears to have been discovered on Tuesday night by

tutor Dr Steve Fossey and his students, of University College London,

when they imaged the galaxy from the university's teaching

observatory at Mill Hill, north London.

It was confirmed by Russian astronomers L Elenin and I Molotov, using

a 0.4-metre telescope at the ISON-NM Observatory at Mayhill, New

Mexico. Its position is measured as 09h 55m 42s, +69d 40' 25.8", and

the discovery brightness was given as magnitude 11.7.

Remarkably, pre-discovery images have turned up showing that the

supernova was already apparent a week before discovery as it

brightened. But somehow it went unnoticed.

News of the supernova spread swiftly thanks to social media such as

Twitter, with excited professional astronomers comparing notes to

help themselves understand its significance! They will also be

scouring old Hubble images to see if they can se the star that

produced the supernova.

The SPA's Tony Markham, a formidable variable star observer, said:

"At its latest reported magnitude of 11.7, a telescope will be needed

to see the supernova. However given that it seems to have been

detected in its early stages it may well brighten further and could

even become visible in good binoculars."

Chris Lintott, of the University of Oxford, and presenter of The Sky

at Night, told us: "This is a nearby supernova, by astronomical

standards, and so we have the chance to learn about the causes and

processes that drive these spectacular events. Early indications are

this might be a type Ia - they're the type we use to measure the

expansion of the Universe and so that would be especially exciting."

The closest supernova of recent years was seen to explode in 1987 in

the Milky Way's companion galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. Labelled

SN1987A, it was of a different type to the new supernova, and reached

magnitude 3 though was too far south for UK observers to see.

Finder charts and images can be found at the SPA website:


Bulletin compiled by Clive Down

(c) 2014 the Society for Popular Astronomy

Our lively website:

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

No comments: