Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick
mckitterick

Astro-Porn of the Day: New Supernova!

News from the galaxy M74, the faintest of the Messier objects (but still observable in a smallish telescope):



A new supernova has burst to life (the bright star in the cross-hairs, below):



If you want to see it in a telescope, here's where to look:



We see supernovae when super-massive stars explode, often outshining the galaxies where they erupt. This supernova is magnitude 12.5 and has stopped brightening; the entire M74 galaxy shines at only magnitude 10.0, so it's almost as bright as the other 100 billion stars shining as normal. Whoah.

Here's what a supernova looks like after it's exploded, shed much of its mass (the glowing "planetary nebula"), and shrunken to the white-hot dot of its core neutron star. In fact, some supernovae are so massive before the explosion that they end up as black holes. Here's the Crab Nebula, recorded by Japanese and Chinese astronomers (and Native Americans, among others) in 1054, still glowing bright nearly a thousand years later:



The Sun will never explode like that; however, it will expand to red-giant phase over the next few billion years, engulfing first Mercury, then Venus, and even the Earth: Yes, the Sun's diameter will swell to larger than the Earth's orbit.

Astronomy is full of AWESOME. And I mean that in a very literal way.

Chris
Tags: astronomy
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