The astronomy world is abuzz with excitement over the birth of a new supernova in the relatively nearby galaxy known as M82. As far as intergalactic distances go, the stellar explosion happened fairly close to earth — less than 12 million light years away.
Students and staff at the University of London’s Observatory first spotted the supernova Tuesday night. They submitted the discovery to the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the official arbiter of supernovas. The bureau has yet to weigh in.
“One minute we’re eating pizza then five minutes later we’ve helped to discover a supernova. I couldn’t believe it,” UCL student Tom Wright said. “It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place.”
Currently known as PSN (Preliminary Supernova) J09554214+6940260 before a name is established, early reports suggest peak brightness of the exploded white dwarf may be two weeks away. It’s the closest supernova since SN 1987A was discovered 160,000 light-years from Earth in 1987.
The supernova can be spotted with an amateur telescope in the M82 galaxy, which lies in the northeastern sky between the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.