New pic: SN2011fe in M101

New pic: SN2011fe in M101

New pic: SN2011fe in M101

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 1 2011 12:10 PM

New pic: SN2011fe in M101

If you were wondering what was going on with the bright new supernova in the spiral galaxy M101, it's now getting very difficult to observe due to its proximity to the Sun in the sky. But happily my friend, the accomplished astronomer Travis Rector, got a shot of it using the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. I would venture to say it's one of the prettiest ones I've seen so far:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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[Click to Chandrasekharenate.]

This was taken on September 18th, and the supernova is the bright blue star above and to the right of the center of the picture (to the left of the fuzzy red nebula). Pictures like this are important in pinning down the exact location of the supernova in the galaxy, so that after it fades the potential prescursor star can be found (though in this case, we already have pretty decent Hubble images of the field). Also, of course, big telescopes with sensitive detectors can give very accurate brightness measurements, which are absolutely critical in understanding how these objects change with time. This particular flavor of supernova is key to our understanding the size and scale of the Universe itself, so the more data -- and the more accurate the data -- we have, the better.

Image credit: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), H. Schweiker & S. Pakzad NOAO/AURA/NSF


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