Find the Pinwheel Supernova with Your New Telescope

by trg

With the recent discovery of what is said to be the closest and brightest supernova to ever be observed, astronomers both professional and amateur rejoice, aiming their collective telescopes at the said supernova. The Pinwheel Supernova, or SN2011FE as it is technically known, was discovered by astrophysicist Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on the 24th of August.

Supernovae are not that rare. Stargazers spot exploding stars almost every night, so why should the SN2011FE receive any special treatment? Well, the fact of the matter is that yes, supernovas aren’t all that rare, but the Pinwheel Supernova – which was named after the Pinwheel galaxy (M101) where it was discovered – is actually the closest supernova to ever  be observed, measuring at a distance of roughly 21 million light-years from the Earth. This may seem like a huge number to non-astronomers, but it’s actually relatively closer to us than what is commonly observed. So close, in fact, that even amateur astronomers who know where to look will be able to spot the supernova with a telescope for beginners or even a good pair of binoculars.

Not only is the SN2011FE really close, it was discovered early on in its life as a supernova. This means that astronomers as well as backyard stargazers can observe and study the supernova over the course of its life. Its young age plus its proximity to earth make for a field day for stargazers. Already professional astronomers are gathering valuable data from the SN2011FE, with contributions from amateur astronomers pouring in by the hour.

So how exactly does one get to see this supernova as well? Well if you’ve got your own backyard astronomy setup like a good telescope for beginners or even just a pair of astronomy binoculars, you can go and point your peepers in the general direction of the Big Dipper and find the supernova right nearby. For more specific instructions, it would be best to consult a detailed map pointing out its location. You can find these online as well.

With events such as the discovery of the Pinwheel Supernova or SN2011FE, more and more people are drawn to one of the most rewarding hobbies of all time – stargazing. If you’re looking to start out as an amateur astronomer as well, now would be a great time while astronomy technology is at its finest, and events such as the Pinwheel Supernova are underway.

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