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Fri, 03 Jun 2011

Confirmed supernova in M51

French observers are reporting what appears to be a supernova at about mag 14, discovered on 2 June in the famous Whirlpool Galaxy M51. Test your French on this site:

or try the Google translated version.

Image of M51
Photo of M51 and supernova taken remotely using the Faulkes Telescope on Hawaii by Gain Lee of Huddersfield. Click for larger image and to see more of Gain's pictures.

This site has issued a confirmation and it was confirmed on 3 June by the International Astronomical Union.

BBC Sky at Night regular Pete Lawrence has taken a photo showing the position of the supernova here.

The object is well-placed for observation from the UK and can be spotted in binoculars as a blur of light, although you will be unlikely to see the supernova this way. It will be tricky to observe visually but should be relatively easy for anyone with a good photographic setup.

The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most recognisable objects in the heavens and has a special place in cosmological history because it was the first galaxy to have its spiral form noticed.

This observation was made in 1845 by Lord Rosse using his 72-inch telescope at Birr Castle, Ireland, which was then the largest telescope in the world. At that time it had not yet been accepted that objects like M51 were separate galaxies outside our own Milky Way in a greater universe.

There is a fuller report on the new Type II supernova - the second supernova in M51 in six years - by Paul Sutherland at Skymania.


Added by: Robin Scagell