A New Supernova in M106
A brand new* supernova has flared up in a nearby galaxy, M106, according to astronomers. This supernova is located very near the bright core of the galaxy, as can be seen in the image below, making it a little trickier to see, and also making it harder to get a light curve to tell us more about it.
We do know that it’s a type II supernova, the kind that happens when an old supergiant star suddenly stops fusing elements in its core and collapses under its immense gravity. This collapse is so rapid that the outer shell of the star rebounds off the core in a huge explosion which rips the star apart, scattering its constituent elements into the cosmos, and temporarily brightening it significantly.
This supernova we discovered in April and recently imaged using a 17″ telescope on 21 May 2014. At the moment its brightness is put at around magnitude +15, which makes it pretty hard to spot with anything other than a very large telescope and very dark skies. Anyone in the UK desperate to see it can book a visit to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory or the Kielder Observatory; both facilities are well worth the effort anyway, and have scopes more than big enough to see the new supernova.
* The galaxy that this supernova is in is 23.5 million light years away so technically it went supernova 23.5 million years ago, and the light has only just got to us here on Earth. Galaxy M106 is the in the little-known constellation Canes Venatici, which despite its lack of any bright stars is still easy to find lying “beneath” the tail of Ursa Minor, the Great Bear.