Starting this weekend, the closest supernova found in at least 25 years will be visible from your backyard with just binoculars or a small telescope. The exploding white dwarf star is currently brightening in the Pinwheel Galaxy, nestled, from our perspective, within the Big Dipper.
Astronomers found the type Ia supernova Aug. 24 within hours, they believe, of its explosion. The team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, credit the early detection to a specialized survey telescope at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California and advanced computing.
Most supernovas spotted at the Palomar Observatory are around 1 billion light-years away, far too distant to be seen by amateurs. At only 21 million light-years away, the newly discovered, violently exploding star is a close cosmic neighbor. In the video above Berkeley Lab’s Peter Nugent describes how to spot this supernova, set to reach peak brightness Sep. 9.
Video: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.