If you somehow find a way to travel 21 million light-years into space and all the way to the Ursa Major constellation, you can find the Pinwheel Galaxy. But thanks to a new discovery, you could find something more: a new supernova that’s leaving astronomers speechless.
Unveiling its dazzling radiance on May 19 within the enigmatic Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as M101, the newfound celestial explosion has become a luminous focal point in the night sky, visible through modest telescopes under the cloak of a dark, star-studded canvas. Space.com tells us what we need to know about the newfound supernova.
The initial discovery of the new celestial event was made by Koichi Itagaki, an intrepid supernova hunter hailing from Yamagata, Japan. The remarkable sighting was promptly confirmed on May 20 by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which is located amidst the awe-inspiring landscapes of California.
On May 19th, a bright supernova – #SN2023ixf – was discovered in the spiral arms of the Pinwheel Galaxy, aka M101. The best part about SN 2023ixf? You can join in observing it along with the rest of the Unistellar Network! pic.twitter.com/IxdtqYTdLV
— The SETI Institute (@SETIInstitute) May 24, 2023
Look in the upper arm of this galaxy- you'll see a star appear to blink in and out of existence. That's a supernova! Very recently discovered in m101: the Pinwheel galaxy (which I happened to be shooting when this happened) pic.twitter.com/8hvplfXNtd
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) May 20, 2023
It is important to keep in mind that beholding the splendor of the Pinwheel Galaxy and its supernova brings some challenges. Its vastness, appearing as a mere fraction of the moon’s apparent size, renders its luminosity dispersed, requiring keen eyes and a patient heart to discern its brilliance amidst the sprawling tapestry of the night sky.
Ursa Major, the majestic celestial bear where the newfound supernova is located, reigns supreme across the northern skies, captivating both ancient lore, and contemporary gazers. Its grandeur lies in the seven luminous jewels of the Big Dipper, as it gracefully adorns the heavens. This iconic asterism, resembling a celestial ladle, beckons with Alkaid, Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, Merak, and Dubhe, casting a timeless presence. Guided by these radiant stars, Ursa Major unveils its head, guarded by Dubhe and Merak, illuminating the way to the steadfast Polaris, the North Star. In this ethereal tapestry, Ursa Major weaves a narrative of celestial wonder, etching its indelible mark on the fabric of human imagination.