New supernova spotted in distant galaxy M74
It looks like a new supernova has been discovered in the galaxy M74, in the constellation of Pisces. A supernova is a star that has exploded, releasing huge amounts of energy and temporarily becoming incredibly bright, and outshining all the other stars in its home galaxy combined. Mind you, brightness is all relative, and at a distance of 30 million light years it will appear as nothing more than a tiny pin-prick of light when seen through a modest telescope [this possible supernova is magnitude 12.4; scopes of 6″ or more should show stars down to 13th magnitude].
Nonetheless, it’s well worth trying to find it if you have a telescope, as it wasn’t there last week, and it’ll have faded from view in a few weeks’ time.
It’s designation is PSN J01364816+1545310 (PSN standing for Possible SuperNova!) with the numbers giving its celestial coordinates. However you don’t need to use these to find it, as M74 is (relatively) easy to find by star-hopping.
[UPDATE: Its designation in now SN2013ej, as it has been confirmed as a supernova]
Start in the constellation of Aries the Ram which sits about 35° above the E horizon at 0300. The two bright stars close together in the head of the ram, Hamal (mag 2.0) and Sharatan (mag 2.4) point to the “right” towards a fainter star eta Psc (mag 3.6). To the “left” of eta PSC (marked with white arrows below) is the excellent spiral galaxy M74, where the new supernova can be found.
UPDATE: Astronomers using the FLOYDS spectrograph attached to the Faulkes Telescope South in Siding Spring, Australia, have obtained a spectrum of PSN J01364816+1545310 and it’s consistent with a Type II Supernova, a giant star that exploded when it died after running out of fuel. This happened 30 million years ago but the light from that explosion has only just reached us!
UPDATE: The excellent Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (@darkskyobs) imaged SN2013ej last night: