My First Supernova!

M82 and M81, unmarked shot - Click to enlarge

M82 and M81, unmarked shot – Click to enlarge

Showing the location of the supernova - Click to Enlarge

Showing the location of the supernova – Click to Enlarge

The first is always the best!

on 23rd January 2014, I captured an image of Supernova J2014 in M82 (the Cigar Galaxy) in Ursa Major.  It appeared a few days before, and shows up in the galaxy as a bright dot.  It’s a Type 1a supernova.

When a supernova happens, the star exploding for a while grow brighter than all of the other stars in the galaxy.

The thing that amazes me about this is that the supernova itself actually happened around 11,420,000 years ago – that’s how many light years away this galaxy is.  That means that this supernova happened way before modern humans evolved, and its taken that long for the photons to reach my camera sensor. However, they’re still the same photons that left the galaxy that long ago.  That blows my mind…

What's a Type 1a Supernova?
A type 1a Supernova happens in a binary (double) star system, with two stars that orbit each other.  The one star, reaching the end of its life, expands and starts to deposit material around the other star.  The whole system then throws off a massive shell of energy, with the main star collapsing to become a white dwarf, and the secondary star getting thrown off into space.  For a fuller explanation, see

These shots are both the same, in that they both show the two galaxies M82 (left) and M81 (right) but the one of them has markers to show the supernova.  The shot itself is a single sub-frame of 4-minutes duration at ISO800 on the modified 1100D, just stretched and colour corrected in Photoshop.

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