Staring Through The Dust To See The M82 Supernova

Staring Through The Dust To See The M82 Supernova

spitzer view of m82 supernova.jpg

On January 21st 2014 a once in a generation event occurred in a nearby galaxy to us. A favourite observation target for amateur astronomers, M82, the cigar galaxy demonstrated a Type 1a Supernova event. These supernovas are thought to be caused when either two small white dwarf stars collide or when a white dwarf star steals material from a another nearby star and explodes when a critical mass is reached. These supernovas are very important to cosmology because it is thought that they explode with the same brightness. They are therefore termed ‘standard candles’. Because they are the same brightness we can measure how bright they appear to us to determine how far away the supernova is from us. This allows us to measure distances across the Universe. Having one of these type 1a supernova go off in our galactic backyard now has allowed us to utilise all the resources we have today to learn more from the explosion. The Spitzer space telescope has a great view as its infrared cameras can peer through the dusty galaxy and get a clear view of what is going on.

To learn more:

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Carnegie Institution for Science 

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