When doing a routine survey of the nearby Pinwheel Galaxy, located a relatively short 21 million lightyears away from our solar system, scientists managed to capture a star, dubbed PTF 11kly, going supernova.
The type Ia supernova is the nearest supernova to occur in 25 years, when a star went supernova in the nearby Centaurus A Galaxy, roughly 15 million light years away.
Type Ia supernovae are thought to occur when a dying star, or a white dwarf, essentially gets too big, usually as a result of having a smaller star or object nearby to draw matter from. The excess material causes the star to become unstable, thus triggering an explosion.
“Type Ia supernovae are the kind we use to measure the expansion of the universe,” said Mark Sullivan of Oxford University. “Seeing one explode so close by allows us to study these events in unprecedented detail.”
Scientists expect that, over the course of a week, the supernova could be visible with powerful enough binoculars.
“The best time to see this exploding star will be just after evening twilight in the Northern Hemisphere in a week or so’s time,” Sullivan explained. “You’ll need dark skies and a good pair of binoculars, although a small telescope would be even better,”
So if you have the proper stargazing equipment, be sure to be on the look out for the supernova throughout next week.