Saturday, August 27, 2011

It Blowed Up!

An understatement.
I mean a supernova is not exactly your normal type of explosion.
Nothing on Earth compares.
No really.
Well, these astronomer folks, who spend a lot of time looking at nothing which could turn out to be something, found something.
Well it was always there, not just blowing up.
A supernova has been detected in M101, otherwise known as NCG5457, otherwise known as the Pinwheel Galaxy.
Read about it here.
Sometimes staring out into space pays off.
Supernovas are a big thing, in the Big Picture.
I mean most of the building blocks of life spread out all over the universe when these suckers go off.
I wouldn't want to be around one to see the flash, if you know what I mean.
I don't know if this one has a chance of being nekkid eyeball seeing, but there have been a couple of them that have.
Been visible to the nekkid eyeball I mean.
None in our life times though.
Read about them here.
Okay, so just where exactly is this thing?
Fortunately, it's in the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major for you astronomer types.
Unfortunately, Ursa Major is way low on the horizon right now, and sets early.
First find someplace really dark.
Here's a chart:

This is what the sky should look like looking north.
The Big Dipper/Ursa Major is low and to the middle left, right above the horizon.
Right there!
Okay, now it may be higher up or lower down depending on where you are.
If you can't find it there, use your internets skilz and go someplace like here.
Now get some binoculars or something.
Here's a chart of Ursa Major:

Now Ursa Major is oriented slightly counter clockwise, but this should do.
Look where the Flat Tire Digital Pointing Device(FTDPD) is well, pointing.
Here it is again:

That yellow ellipse thingy that's marked M101 is what you're looking for.
Found it?
If you squint your eyeballs, you should see this:

Okay, not really.
The Pinwheel Galaxy is like a magnitude 8.4, which I think puts it right at the edge of binocular viewing.
Meaning it's really hard to see.
Normally it would look like a small fuzzy ball, but since an explosion greater than anyone can imagine is happening right now, all you might see is something that looks like another star.
Burn this image onto your hard drive, for if you keep looking, after a few days you may notice that the star in question is increasing in brightness, or magnitude if you want to get technical.
In fact, if you can get a camera on that spot, you may be able to document the event photographically and see the changes in brightness.
This is all pretty big stuff, for I don't think astronomers have gotten a gander at a supernova going off so close to Earth.
Close in relationship to the rest of the universe I mean.
Maybe this thing gets really bright and we get so see something that may not happen again in another life time.
A visual treat for us.
Not so good for anyone living in or around the Pinwheel Galaxy.
If you know what I mean.
Then again, maybe a GAGILLION years from now, when some new worlds have formed, some folks there will be watching our Sun blow up.
Of course I won't be here.
At least I don't think so.
Okay, not even a Maybe on that one.

P.S. Andrew Cooper of A Darker View fame says(in comments below) they used a 24" scope to view it the other day.
What that means to us non astronomer types is that it probably won't be visible in binoculars yet. AC says to give it a few days to brighten up.


Andrew Cooper said...

We checked it out last night. Doing a star party for the kids of our local elementary school. We used Cliff's 24" scope and found the supernova. Give it a few days and it will be visible in smaller scopes, maybe even binos, as one star outshines an entire galaxy.

limom said...

Very cool!

Steve A said...

I like stars and planets, but don't forget meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites, not to mention the asteroid that will kill us all next year.

limom said...

Steve A., are you not sharing something with us?