Astronomers across the world have detected a new light appearing in a distant galaxy identified as a massive star exploding as a supernova.
The Hubble Space Telescope began studying it this morning.
Named SN 2023ixf by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), it’s in the Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as Messier 101, a face-on spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. That’s home to the familiar Big Dipper asterism.
Originally discovered in this image on Friday, May 19, 2023 by renowned supernova-hunter Koichi Itagaki in Yamagata, Japan, the existence of SN 2023ixf was confirmed the following night by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) telescopes in California.
Since then it’s been imaged by amateur astronomers across the world, with many images posted to social media.
SN 2023ixf is about 21 million light-years from Earth, making it the closest supernova to the solar system since SN 2014J in the Cigar Galaxy (also called M82) in 2014, which was around 12 million light-years from Earth.
M82 is also close to the Big Dipper, though the Pinwheel Galaxy itself hosted supernova SN 2011fe in 2011.
At almost magnitude 15, SN 2023ixf is faint, but can be seen as a point of light through small backyard telescopes. It should brighten over the next few days and remain visible to telescopes for a few months, according to astronomer Andy Howells at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Wishing you clear skies and bright eyes.