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Surprise supernova makes small visible dot in nighttime skies

Surprise supernova makes small visible dot in nighttime skies
2 minute exposure of galaxy Messier82 courtesy of Steven Rosenow of Loowit Imaging in Shelton. The red bars indicate where the supernova occurred.

Astronomers got a little surprise present for their nighttime viewing this week as a star went supernova in nearby galaxy Messier82 (also known as Bode's Nebulae). The explosion of the white dwarf star was so intense, that it's visible at night even using amateur telescopes.

Steven Rosenow of Loowit Imaging in Shelton snapped the photo above of the bright speck of light, using a 10-inch Meade telescope and a two-minute exposure. He says if you know where to look, you can find it with binoculars.

Here is another photo, this one from Liem Bahneman:

And here is a side-by-side comparision from the galaxy on Jan. 5 and Jan. 23 from YouNews contributor scubadiver:

This map from SkyandTelescope.com will tell you where to look for it -- it's just "above" the front two stars of the Big Dipper:



"M82 is a near neighbor as galaxies go, at a distance of 11 or 12 million light-years," SkyandTelescope wrote. "It's a favorite for amateur astronomers and researchers alike, with its thick dust bands, sprays of gas, and bright center undergoing massive star formation."

That means the supernova actually happened some 11-12 million years ago. We're just seeing it now.  And that's considered a close galaxy!

The supernova is expected to continue to get a little brighter over the next two weeks, but clouds are starting to encroach back into the forecast. But if you see stars outside, you might be able to catch a faint glimpse of the supernova.

More Information:
Nasa.gov
SkyandTelescope.com