A Supernova near Ursa Major

Galaxy M82 before (above) and after (below)  SN2014J.
Galaxy M82 before (above) and after (below) SN2014J. The bottom image was taken at 19:20 UT, 21st January 2014 using the automatic 35 cm telescope of the University of London Observatory.
Credit: UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright

A new supernova has been spotted just 12 light years away in M 82, the Cigar galaxy, which is between Ursa Major (the Great Bear or Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor. It’s a type 1a supernova, which is what happens when a white dwarf sucks gas from a companion red giant, until the white dwarf reaches 1.4 solar masses (the Chandrasekhar mass) when the core becomes hot enough to fuse carbon, which starts a runaway reaction, and the whole star goes FOOM!

Since this is the 10th supernova spotted this year, its official name is SN 2014J (SN for supernova, 2014 for the year, and then the first supernova of the year is SN2014A, etc.). On Monday night it was magnitude 11 (easily visible through a small telescope), and it should reach maximum brightness on about January 31st. It might be visible through binoculars by then.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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