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    See A Supernova This Weekend With Your Kids
    By Hank Campbell | September 1st 2011 10:05 AM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    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.

    Old Faithful with Big Dipper in the background

    Comments

    UvaE
    Thanks for the supernova alert!
    Here's a star map from Redshift:



    and a pic of the Big Dipper I took earlier this month from Cassino, Italy
    This is one dumb site...because the inclusion of ads, etc. on left side obliterate much of the text, etc. Crapola to the webmaster.

    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps you'd better check your browser or your eyes.  There are no ads on the left side of these pages.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I know this is okay on an iPad but anything smaller could have stuff anywhere.  No one really reads thousand word articles on their phone so we don't do anything for those.
    Just went out to look for it, found nothing. Two things. One: it is not a right triangle, it is an equilateral triangle. And two: it is not very bright, even though you have very little surrounding light.

    Hank
    Like I said, it will be increasing in brightness so if you can't see it well now by next weekend you should.  If you look (left) it was originally 1 million times fainter than a person could see and then more recently it was 10,000 and that is increasing (the green arrows are hard to see unless you click the image to make it full size:

    PTF 11kly
    Why does your diagram show the triangle to the south of the big dipper while the star map from redshift shows the pinwheel galaxy in a similar position to the north of the big dipper? One of you is wrong. I suspect Hank Campbell is the one that's wrong - There you go.

    Hank
    The earth is moving and different pictures are taken from different regions.  The supernova is in the same spot relative to the Big Dipper, I just used two different images to show it.   Astronomers don't easily get caught up in left and right - good thing ancient navigators didn't either.

    My image is from the senior astronomer who discovered the supernova.  I suppose it is possible all of astronomy is wrong.  Unlikely, though.
    Sorry. My bad. Looking more closely I can see the two diagrams are the same. The second one is much easier to see.

    MikeCrow
    I wanted to take a picture of it, but it was hot last week and that doesn't work so well with really long exposures, plus my house is in the way. I was considering moving my scope this week once the temps dropped into the 60's, but it's done nothing but rain. So I got nothing.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    At least here in California, it will be brightest this weekend, so you have some time.
    MikeCrow
    Then I suspect it'll still be bright in Ohio as well.......

    Though I do have to qualify that it does have to be clear out.
    Never is a long time.
    I have a pair of 11x70 binos and a dob 10 inch GSO. I have also bought a camera and I hope to get some shots of this supernova so i can post pictures on my new website. Please go and have a look

    Hi all. I watched the Supernova on the southern shore of the UK and used really powerful astronomical binoculars ( 20x80 ). It really was something special.