Astronomers and amateurs alike are excited about the explosion of a new star that can be seen in small telescopes.
A new supernova became visible on May 19 in the Pinwheel galaxy (also known as Messier 101 or M101). The galaxy appears in a small telescope under dark sky conditions, as long as you use a wide field of view and a low-power lens.
Supernova hunter Koichi Itagaki, of Yamagata, Japan, detected the burst for the first time, which was confirmed the next day (May 20) by telescopes from the Zwicky Transit Facility (ZTF) in California.
Long exposure images make supernova detection easier. A supernova was formed when a star, much larger than our sun, ran out of fuel to burn in its core. As the core could no longer support the star’s mass, the star collapsed in on itself and created a massive explosion.
Many observers shared their excitement on Twitter, often bolstered by images or data as they talked about the supernova with the audience.
Related: This new supernova is the closest to Earth in a decade. It is visible in the night sky now.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, has joined several amateur astronomers in providing snapshots of the supernova, which can easily be seen in amateur telescopes.
On May 19, a bright supernova – #SN2023ixf – was discovered in the spiral arms of the Pinwheel galaxy, also known as M101. The best part about SN 2023ixf? You can co-monitor it with the rest of the Unistellar network! pic.twitter.com/IxdtqYTdLVMay 24, 2023
Look at the top of this galaxy – you’ll see a star that appears to blink in and out of existence. This is a supernova! Recently discovered in m101: the Pinwheel Galaxy (which I happened to be called when this happened) pic.twitter.com/8hvplfXNtdMay 20, 2023
🛑Supernova 🎇SN #2023ixf in Messier 101: HD image from last night (May 23, 2023).. Details here: https://t.co/nVBwsmtq5c pic.twitter.com/NgIBhcP3s2May 24, 2023
M101 with SUPERNOVA only 2 hours of 4 minute sub exposures. But there is a supernova SN2023ixf! 5 inch scope and nikon d5300 camera. Data from Robert Eckhart. @nasahqphotoThePhotoHour #StormHourDavidBflowerSkyandTelescopeAstronomyMag #Astrophotography #astronomy #SUPERNOVA pic.twitter.com/L7ejrB3BVqMay 25, 2023
Professional astronomers shared the data or alerted the community about the rare event, which can be hard to pin down if you’re not used to looking for such things.
“Just note that this galaxy and a supernova aren’t the easiest things to see in the sky,” Space.com writer Joe Rao wrote in a recent story.
“Part of the reason it is so problematic to see it is its apparent size: M101 is about a third of the Moon’s apparent diameter; its overall brightness is so ‘diffuse’ that the contrast between it and the background sky makes it somewhat difficult to perceive.”
If you want to look at M101 or other deep-sky objects, our guides to the best telescopes and best binoculars are a great place to start. We can also help you snap pictures of this new supernova with our guides on how to photograph the moon, as well as the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.
Tonight the sky has cleared enough to spot the newly discovered supernova in M101 (2023ixf). It’s a challenge from my light polluted site within 8 inches. I’ve rated it not brighter than V=+12.2.📷: I’m trying to make sense of it in my notebook with comparison stars pic.twitter.com/GAk2v3vgtuMay 21, 2023
🚨 SUPERNOVA ALERT: SN2023ixf was discovered just a few hours ago in the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101! At 21 million light-years away, it’s the closest supernova in a decade – it’s currently rising rapidly and should soon be viewable in amateur telescopes!May 20, 2023
Several people have commented on how smoke from huge wildfires in western Canada affected the observations, but the supernova was nonetheless visible through the haze.
Damn that supernova is shining. Single exposure for 60 seconds under very bad and not well focused smoke. #astronomy #astrophotography #SN2023ixf pic.twitter.com/acNL25KVT2May 24, 2023
The supernova in the Galaxy M101 pinwheel! returned from vacation. I took a quick look last night. The parallax condition was not good because of the smoke, but the supernova is easy to see. 🔭ED127📷asi1600mm processor in HaRGB in PI. Enjoy! #Astrophotography #supernova #SN2023ixf #Space pic.twitter.com/WmB85mPL1jMay 25, 2023
Some people took this opportunity to comment on the activities of SpaceX and billionaire CEO Elon Musk.
SpaceX has sent more than 4,000 Starlink broadband spacecraft into orbit so far, and the company has been criticized for the satellites’ impact on amateur astronomy as they transit in front of objects.
Breaking my Twitter post to make sure astronomers are aware of a new supernova in M101 at 7 mega-seconds. It is a core collapse supernova that was detected at a very young age, at 14.9 mag. Supernovae This shutdown only comes once a decade, so keep it up! https://t.co/s3a6CuxLMdMay 19, 2023
Nothing like a piece of Elon Musk’s space junk to spoil a live set for a supernova photo. pic.twitter.com/wtSqLzYPWFMay 24, 2023
Editor’s note: If you managed to capture a photo of M101 and/or this new supernova and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, name, and location to [email protected].
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