"Cigar Galaxy" Supernova Burns Bright Visible from Chabot Space & Science Center Telescopes this Weekend

Jan 30, 2014, 17:27 ET from Chabot Space & Science Center


OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Chabot Astronomers are tracking the latest supernova about 12 million light years away. Identified as "2014J," a Type 1A supernova, the phenomenon is occurring in Messier-82 (M82), also known as the Cigar Galaxy. Supernovae occur when a star explodes emitting a massive amount of energy in a short span of time; the star literally collapses under its own gravity. 2014J actually exploded about 12 million years ago, but is only visible now because of the distance its light has had to travel through space.

All Type 1A supernovae have the same intrinsic brightness, so are very useful tools for astronomers in determining the distance to the galaxies in which they explode. By measuring the apparent brightness of the supernova and comparing it to what we know the true brightness of a Type 1A supernova to be, astronomers can calculate the distance with good accuracy.

Chabot astronomer and astrophotographer Conrad Jung, and his team are tracking and photographing 2014J through Chabot's 36" reflecting research telescope Nellie and comparing to images taken ten years ago. Astronomer Gerald McKeegan stated, "Although the supernova was discovered on January 21st, researchers have determined that the initial explosion occurred on January 14. For Type 1A supernovae, the luminosity ramp-up typically takes 18 to 20 days, so it should reach maximum brightness around February 2nd. Thereafter, it will gradually fade, losing about 2 magnitudes in luminosity by the end of February. If the 18-20 day luminosity ramp up profile holds true for SN 2014J, then it should be just about at maximum magnitude this coming weekend February 1st and 2nd."

Nellie will be pointed at SN 2014J for public viewing this weekend, weather permitting. Chabot Space & Science Center and East Bay Astronomical Society astronomers and trained observatory deck guides will be on the deck leading viewing activities. The observatories are open 7:30-10:30 pm both Friday and Saturday nights.

About Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space & Science Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit interactive science center whose mission is to inspire and educate students of all ages about Planet Earth and the Universe. Located in the Oakland hills, the Center focuses on the earth, life, physical and astronomical sciences, with a 130-year legacy of serving Bay Area communities through exhibits, public programs, school field trips, science camps, teacher training, teen development programs and community outreach; hosts 50,000 students on school field trips and over 117,000 public visitors each year; and offers over 20,000 sq ft of interactive exhibits on a variety of space and science subjects, a world-class planetarium, school classes on over 30 different science topics, hands-on science activities, state-of-the-art classrooms and labs and publicly-available research-level telescopes.

SOURCE Chabot Space & Science Center