The Adventures of Supernova


There! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Supernova! Ok, enough Superman references. But seriously! There’s a new supernova in the sky. In the past week, there has been a lot of buzz going around about something new in the southern skies because an amateur astronomer in New Zealand discovered the newest supernova known.


34 million years ago, a star exploded in a supernova. No one knew the light from this stellar explosion was screaming across the cosmos until it finally reached the telescope of the amateur astronomer named Stu Parker. Parker is a member of an amateur astronomer group called BOSS (Backyard Observatory Supernova Search) in Australia and New Zealand who spend their time searching the cosmos for supernovae in our own galaxy, as well as any galaxy they can see.


BOSS has been around since 2008 and whenever they find a possible candidate, they get ahold of professional astronomers with the really big telescopes and instruments to officially confirm. So far, BOSS has been credited with discovering 56 supernovae, with Stu personally co-discovering 45 of them. Not too bad of a record I’d say.


During a routine search, Parker noticed a new bright spot in the constellation Lupus. Not sure if it was an electrical issue with his equipment, or an asteroid flying in his way, he checked back 5 minutes later and confirmed that this was in fact an actual supernova. This supernova is not in our galaxy, which personally, I’m kinda disappointed in. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want one anywhere near us, but I think it would be great to see something so bright in the sky. The supernova called its home in the barred spiral galaxy NCG 5643 in the constellation of Lupus the Wolf. I wouldn’t be too shocked if you see Lupus come up as the Constellation of the Week in the near future if I were you.


Supernovae are fun. They are explosions on a stellar level, one of the most powerful explosions the universe has to offer, making it no mystery why we like them and study them so much (Owen want big boom…) In these studies, we have found that supernovae are different, and we’ve given those differences types. This supernova happens to be a Type Ia supernova, one of the most important supernovae that we can see because we use them to measure distances across the galaxy. We also have a multitude of articles on supernovae so I won’t get too into this in this article, so please head on over to our other articles and rock out with your geek out.


The supernova that Parker found lies in a galaxy that shines at about a magnitude 10, far too dim for a human eye to see unaided. However, all you would really need to see this galaxy is something simple, only a 6” telescope. The supernova lies on its outer edge of the galaxy and currently shines at a magnitude of 11.6 and growing brighter. It should reach its peak being brighter than its entire galaxy. Unfortunately, still not bright enough for us to see with our eyes, but for a single star to outshine an entire galaxy is nothing to sneeze at.


The supernova is really only viewable for those who live in the South. All of the Southern hemisphere will have a great view of this supernova, and only those in the northern hemisphere can only see it only if you live at most 35° North latitude. From there, the further south you go, the better. For me, I live in the Daytona Beach area of Florida in the U.S. and I am barely able to see the constellation rise above my horizon because Daytona is at about 30° North latitude. So, if you live in somewhat far North in the Northern hemisphere, it may be time for you to travel. After all, traveling south means better temperatures during this time of year!




Sources and Additional Reading:


“Bright New Supernova Shines in Southern Skies”


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