Since I posted my National Geographic story about the new supernova discovery in the Whirlpool galaxy (M 51) more than 10,000 15,000 people and counting have Facebook ‘liked’ it. Obviously this cosmic eruption has excited lots of stargazers out there – including me! So of course as soon as I caught wind of the discovery I wanted to hunt this elusive point of light down for myself in my backyard scope. I am not really an astro-imager but more of an casual observer that likes to push the limits of my observation and scope capablitiy – especially from my light polluted backyard. I knew this magnitude 14 supernova 31 million light years would do just that.
A few hours after writing the story up Friday night, June 3rd, I started searching for the supernova in M51. I actually waited until after 11 pm for dark skies to settle in and cool down the optics on my 16 inch truss dobsonian telescope. After about an hour searching and staring (using averted vision) at M51 with a 9 mm Nagler I managed to tease out some of the spiral arm details -including a few foreground stars.
Once I knew where to look – basing it on the photo below – it wasn’t too hard to ID the stellar interloper. In fact by around 1 am my dark vision must have been better because I could see the supernova directly without much difficulty. Other observers are reporting this morning that they have been able to spot it with 12 inch and even 10 inch scopes with 130x magnification. It will be interesting to see over time what happens to its brightness.
Here are some details for those up for the hunt:
Name: SN 2011d
location: Ra 13h 30m 5s and Dec +40° 10′ 11.2″ ;
Details: Located 138″ east and 92″ north of the center of M51. Supernova near to and southeast of NGC 5194’s core. Don’t be fooled by the bright star southwest of the nucleus.
Here are some amateur images of SN 2011d: (Bailey discovery image) (Dupouy discovery image) (Griga discovery image) (Garnier image) (Yusa image) (Joseph Brimacombe image) (Joseph Brimacombe image wide field) (R. Koff image) (Ron Arbour image) (Giancarlo Cortini image) (Pedro Re image) (Stan Howerton image) All courtesy of supernovanet.
Some predict that it may increase in brightness up to 12.2 magnitude – which would definitely make it much easier to visually see in much smaller telescopes. So it will definitely be worth keeping an eye on the next couple of weeks at least.
Can’t wait for the next clear night!
Tags: M51, supernova, Whirlpool galaxy
Posted in Stargazing, stars | 1 Comment »