Astronomers Catch a Supernova Explode Almost in Realtime

A composite image taken with the Liverpool Telescope showing the location of SN 2023ixf, a red supergiant supernova (the most blue object in the rectangle) that occurred 22 million light-years from Earth in the Pinwheel Galaxy. Credit: E. Zimmerman et al., Weizmann Institute of Science/Liverpool Telescope.

Catching a supernova in action is tricky business. There is no way to predict them, and they don’t occur very often. Within the Milky Way they only occur about once a century, and the last one was observed in 1604.

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Gemini North Returns to Service Just in Time to See a New Supernova

A new supernova, SN 2023ixf, seen in the lower left of this image from the newly refurbished Gemini North telescope, is the closest supernova seen in the past five years. The supernova, discovered on May 19, 2023, is located along one of the spiral arms of the Pinwheel Galaxy. Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

The 8-meter Gemini North telescope has been brought back online after seven months of repairs and refurbishment of its primary mirror. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the telescope was able to capture the brand-new supernova in the famous Pinwheel Galaxy. The bright supernova was first discovered on May 19th, and telescopes worldwide have been revealing its secrets.

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