Astronomers have captured breathtaking new photos of a nearby supernova.
Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered the remnants of the star explosion called SN 2023ixf last week, NASA said in a news release on Monday. Located in the Pinwheel Galaxy M101, this supernova’s 21-million-light-year distance makes it the closest to Earth of all supernovas recorded in the last five years.
SN 2023ixf is also the second closest supernova discovered in the last 10 years and the second supernova found in the Pinwheel Galaxy M101 in the past 15 years.
The images show the hypnotizing swirl of the M101 galaxy and the newly discovered supernova gleaming off the centre of the galaxy’s core. NASA classified SN 2023ixf as a Type II supernova, meaning the star before it was massive and used up more nuclear fuel than smaller stars. It’s also known as a core-collapse supernova.
The National School’s Observatory says these stars can contain eight to 200 times the mass of Earth’s sun and they die once it’s no longer supported by the release of nuclear energy, ultimately becoming a supernova.
A star just went Supernova!💥
Located in the Pinwheel Galaxy, SN 2023ixf was observed exploding over the last few days = its brightness increasing dramatically each night.
Viewable from standard backyard telescopes!
Patrick Wiggins captured this image:https://t.co/6sdvx7Xzrs pic.twitter.com/oRmHi6WnnS
— Mike Gibbs🏳️🌈 (@Mikeggibbs) May 22, 2023
NASA says the discovery of the supernova will hopefully lead astronomers to learn more about these massive stars.
“SN 2023ixf will likely brighten and remain visible to telescopes for months,” the news release said. “Studying such a close and young Type II supernova may yield new clues about massive stars and how they explode.”
Earlier last month, the Hubble space telescope’s successor, the James Webb Telescope, captured images of the youngest remnants of an exploding star in our galaxy known as the Cassiopeia A supernova.
Astronomers and space-enthusiasts alike have been revelling in the images the James Webb Telescope has captured less than a year after its launch; including images that taught us about a distant universe, Jupiter’s inner life and exoplanets.