Have a telescope? Heck, do you have a pair of binoculars?
If so, head outside the city and take a look at a Type 1A supernova. It's 21 million light-years away, which sounds like a lot, but to astronomers and modern optics that's actually pretty close. So close that over the next few weeks you can even spy it with a pair of good binoculars (25x100), a short while after sunset.
What you will be looking at is a Type 1A supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy. If you are yet not into astronomy but like the lingo, a Type 1A supernova is carbon-oxygen white dwarf, a little bigger than our Sun. This one is located in Ursa Major, what everyone in America knows as the Big Dipper. That's a good one for a reference because people all over the world know it by some name or other; the Hindus call it Sapta Rishi/The Seven Sages and Homer's Iliad called it The Bear but in North America it is the Big Dipper because the major stars outline a ladle. It's even on the Alaska state flag.
Where to look for the supernova? Go to the Big Dipper, find the last two stars in the handle and, visually using those two as the base of an equilateral triangle, find what would be the third point - there you go. A supernova.
If you don't even know how to find the Big Dipper, I will tell you how to locate it, at least in California. Go out a short while after sunset, as I mentioned, and look West. It will look something like this, courtesy of SkyWatchWorld, depending on the month and time of evening:
The reason I say 'time of day' is because it makes a counter-clockwise rotation around Polaris every 24 hours and month because in the spring it is high in the sky when it is above Polaris and low in the sky when it is rotated half way around Polaris above the horizon, like in autumn.
Alexander Meleg put this fun "4-D" image on Wikipedia (150,000 years) you need those 3-D glasses from the movie theater, though.
Take a look while you can. Dubhe (upper right of the bowl) and Alkaid (tip of the handle) are moving in opposite directions from the others so in 50,000 years this will be a completely different dipper, with Dubhe the handle and Alkaid part of the bowl.
Berkeley Lab senior scientist Peter Nugent says this is the closest and brightest supernova of this type detected in the last 30 years - best time to look is this weekend through September 9th.
H/T Linda Vu, Berkeley National Lab
Bonus - check out this Jim Goldstein photo from a few days ago - the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park with the Big Dipper in the background.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Not Just Vitamin D - The Radiation In Sunshine May Be Healthy
- Ignorance Of Math And Physics Is No Excuse
- War On Doping And The Hypocritical Treatment Of Lance Armstrong
- Quantum Cryptography Core Question At The Heart Of Quantum Information Theory Answered?!?
- Mars Lost An Ocean’s Worth Of Water
- Science Debunks Fad Ideas About Autism, But That Doesn't Dissuade Believers
- What Antidepressants Do To Healthy People
- "Matthew- you are correct. I certainly didn't want to go into GPRs. Then I'd need some opiates...."
- "I really enjoyed your article Gigi. I am struck by how creative bureaucracies can be in finding..."
- "Josh,What do you mean by blocking receptors? Opioid medications are typically agonists, whether..."
- "So many people in Australia nowadays are afraid of any direct contact with the Sun because they..."
- "Nope You can treat for the mites. It is done effectively every day. And the poorly funded research..."
- How the iPhone confounds disruption theorists
- BPA harms dental enamel in young animals, mimicking human tooth defect
- People with anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder share brain anomalies
- Feeling sleepy? Might be the melatonin
- Chromosomal rearrangement is the key to progress against aggressive infant leukemia