Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

'Instant Cosmic Classic' Supernova Discovered 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the transfixed-by-distant-lights dept.
chill sends this quote from a news release by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: "A supernova discovered yesterday is closer to Earth — approximately 21 million light-years away—than any other of its kind in a generation. Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools. 'We caught this supernova very soon after explosion. PTF 11kly is getting brighter by the minute. It’s already 20 times brighter than it was yesterday,' said Peter Nugent, the senior scientist at Berkeley Lab who first spotted the supernova. ... the supernova is still getting brighter, and might even be visible with good binoculars in ten days’ time, appearing brighter than any other supernova of its type in the last 30 years."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Instant Cosmic Classic' Supernova Discovered

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I read a post like this and I can't help but think that even at its nerdiest, science can be really freaking cool.

  • So, what they're saying is that if discarding any supernova not of this specific type (type Ia), then there hasn't been any closer for a staggering 20 years?

    What's nice here is how quickly it was accidentally discovered. That will be helpful for studying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlecC (512609)

      What's nice here is how quickly it was accidentally discovered. That will be helpful for studying.

      It was no accident: it was discovered by a system specifically set up to do a search of the sky every night looking for changes just like this, It is modern computer-assisted observations that made this possible: computers will do the tedious task of looking at the same bit of sky over and over again looking for changes.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        It's still accidental, in that they don't cover the entire sky.

        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          It's still accidental, in that they don't cover the entire sky.

          Not it is not, if the intention was to monitor and capture events occuring within the area of the sky being covered.

        • by Dishevel (1105119)

          It's still accidental, in that they don't cover the entire sky.

          I do not think that "accidental" means what you think it means.

          And here is a question I have not seen asked.

          What do you think "accidental" means?

          • by arth1 (260657)

            "By happenstance" is as good a synonym as any.
            A supernova could have (and possibly has) occurred in the parts of the sky they're not looking.

            Or, to put it another way. If I point my telescope randomly at a small but fairly busy part of the sky and compare images from it every night with my computers in the hope of catching an anomaly, and it happens to catch a supernova, would you say that it wasn't an accidental discovery?

            I have no idea where the supernovas are going to occur, and neither do these guys.

            • by jgoemat (565882)
              Accidental means unintentional, usually with undesirable outcomes. Their intention was clearly to find supernovae therefore it was in no way an accident. An accidental discovery would be Hubble taking a picture of the galaxy for other reasons and just happening to catch the supernova. The PTF survey [caltech.edu] looks at a large part of the sky and has found 858 type Ia supernovae so far.
            • by Dishevel (1105119)

              Again.
              I really think you should look up what accidental means.
              I do not mean to be a dick, but at a certain point you need to admit you are wrong or at least shut up.
              Defending stupidity only magnifies it.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      So, what they're saying is that if discarding any supernova not of this specific type (type Ia), then there hasn't been any closer for a staggering 20 years?

      Yeah, what's so exciting about a cosmic event being observed, better than any of it's type has been in 20 years?

      Those astronomers, eh? Getting excited over every single flawless observation of once-in-a-generation events. Honestly, so very uncool.

      I mean honestly, what do the editors of this site think- that the readership is nothing but a bunch of nerds or something?

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      So, what they're saying is that if discarding any supernova not of this specific type (type Ia), then there hasn't been any closer for a staggering 20 years?

      Yes. Why do you think that's no big deal?

      If the answer is because you aren't interested in the subject in general, then that's fine (though I would wonder why you posted). If you are, then it should be clear that 1) The type of supernova matters 2) It being closer than other recent events of this type matters and 3) studying it with the 20 years of new technology and methodology that have been developed since the last event of this type and magnitude matters. That all spells "big deal".

      Yes the rapidity w

  • Astounding! (Score:3, Funny)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:07AM (#37217840) Homepage

    Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools

    An amazingly rare feat, as not only did they catch the supernova right away, they somehow violated the universal speed limit of c in order to do so. Someone call the physics police on "chill" or Soulskill or whoever made that summary.

    • Re:Astounding! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slim (1652) <john@h[ ]nup.net ['art' in gap]> on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:13AM (#37217874) Homepage

      I'm not a physicist, but I'm given to understand that it's a valid way to look at the universe -- so say something is happening "now" when "now" is the earliest you could detect it given the speed of light.

      • Re:Astounding! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Greyfox (87712) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:52AM (#37218234) Homepage Journal
        Neither am I, but I'm having to deal with a lot of time and space recently. Even the light we observe from the sun is 8 minutes old. To add insult to injury, gravity has an effect on the rate at which time runs, so an atomic clock at sea level will start to diverge from an atomic clock on a mountain. And our sensory data has a non-zero processing time. All of which makes it astoundingly difficult to even find out when "now" is, much less use that information for anything before it becomes "then."
        • by Yvan256 (722131)

          When will Then be Now?

        • by Amouth (879122)

          i always loved that when our star dies - it will take 8min 30sec before we find out. also that given the nearest start is >4 years.. so right now there could be nothing out there, we just don't know it yet.

        • Maybe gravity and other forces have an effect on how fast matter decays, possibly as gravitational drag affects particles with mass such as neutrons ... you know, like how they "Proved" relativity by putting a clock on a plane and firing afterburners, and saying it ran slower than the clock on the ground. Has nothing to do with the Gs applied to the clock.
        • According to the tour at McDonald Observatory, the light takes many many centuries to get from the center of the sun to the outside, but then under 8 minutes to get all the way to Earth.
        • by NexusJedi (137348)

          Neither am I, but I'm having to deal with a lot of time and space recently.

          Tell me about it. Seems like I've been dealing with time and space forever. No matter where I go, all hours of the day, it's time and space! Even on the weekends, time and space! I just can't get away from it.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        I would go so far as to say that not only is dkleinsc wrong about now in that he is intentionally missing the intent of the word "Now" in context, but is wrong on what now means at all. Since as far as modern science knows, information cannot move faster than the speed of light, no event can really be said to be happening "now". The best you could ever say is "maybe now". The meaning of the word in the article isn't just a "valid" way to look at the universe. It is darn near the ONLY way to view the uni
    • by Tynin (634655)

      Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools

      An amazingly rare feat, as not only did they catch the supernova right away, they somehow violated the universal speed limit of c in order to do so. Someone call the physics police on "chill" or Soulskill or whoever made that summary.

      It isn't the summary at fault, from TFA:

      Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools.

      I think it is assumed that when they say they that found it within hours, they mean they found it within hours of the first light of this event reaching Earth, but since they didn't say so explicitly, I imagine you won't be the only one repeating this like they found something clever.

      • Now is there any data on what the star was doing 3 days ago, so we might have hints what an imminent-supernova might look like? That would mean the next one we could catch even earlier.
    • by immakiku (777365)
      There's no absolute concept of time anyway - it would not be more or less correct to say a few hours rather than a few million light years because it all depends where you are in space-time. Their frame of reference is clearly the earliest at which we could have observed the explosion. Still incredible given we were not expecting it and it's not something that people can just observe without lots of equipment.
    • Re:Astounding! (Score:4, Informative)

      by AstroMatt (1594081) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:24AM (#37217960)
      It's nearly always phrased this way. It was discovered within hours of the initial signal of the explosion reaching earth. Matt Wood
    • Re:Astounding! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jaktar (975138) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:30AM (#37218020)

      Colonel Sandurz: Try here. Stop.
      Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
      Colonel Sandurz: Now. You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.
      Dark Helmet: What happened to then?
      Colonel Sandurz: We passed then.
      Dark Helmet: When?
      Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We're at now now.
      Dark Helmet: Go back to then.
      Colonel Sandurz: When?
      Dark Helmet: Now.
      Colonel Sandurz: Now?
      Dark Helmet: Now.
      Colonel Sandurz: I can't.
      Dark Helmet: Why?
      Colonel Sandurz: We missed it.
      Dark Helmet: When?
      Colonel Sandurz: Just now.
      Dark Helmet: When will then be now?
      Colonel Sandurz: Soon.

    • by Mendenhall (32321)

      This is formally a perfectly acceptable way to present the discovery. Two events (points) in Minkowski 4-space which are connected by a ray of light have an invariant time separation tau = delta_t - delta_x /c = 0. To us, it did just happen.

    • by GNious (953874)

      Somehow I think it must be REALLY boring watching a sun-rise with you.
      (hint: in your world, they already happened 8 minutes ago)

    • EPR radar maybe.
  • by Frans Faase (648933) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:07AM (#37217842) Homepage
    Anybody found a website where it is possible to follow the progression of the supernova in (near) real-time? A brightness graph would be interesting.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    set M101 to the desktop wallpaper, pity I cannot get a live updating image, but there are some awesome photos of the galaxy outthere
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday August 26, 2011 @09:34AM (#37218056) Homepage

    This is close enough that you can see it with a good amateur telescope. The supernova will brighten over time, probably hitting its brightest point sometime in the middle of September. As it brightens it might even be possible to see it with a cheap telescope or a pair of binoculars.

    One thing that is important to realize is that this supernova is Type Ia, not Type II. Type II supernovae are what most people are thinking of when they think of a supernova (that is, death of a massive star). A Type Ia supernova instead occurs in a binary system where one of the stars is a white dwarf. The white dwarf slowly steals away mass from the other star until the white dwarf gets too big to be stable, around 1.4 times the mass of the sun. Then it experiences collapse in a way that is essentially similar to that of the Type II supernova.

    This supernova was very close to us. One thing that could be very promising is if this left any neutrino signature above the background level. Neutrinos are very hard to detect, the major detectors are things like IceCube http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IceCube_Neutrino_Observatory [wikipedia.org] or Super-K http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-Kamiokande [wikipedia.org] which have very large containers of water or some other substance and you then carefully try to detect the very rare neutrino interactions over all the background radiation (neutrinos are very ghostly and don't interact very much. You have billions of them going through you all the time and you don't even notice). This has only happened with one supernova before SN 1987A http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A [wikipedia.org] which was bright enough and close enough to be seen by the naked eye. One really cool thing about this was that we actually recorded the neutrino burst for SN 1987A before the light arrived (three hours before). At this point, most people get shocked because they know that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. What happened was that in a Type II supernova neutrino burst occurs at the very beginning of the supernova process, but the light has to work its way out of the whole star. This actually allows us to potentially detect supernova before they happen, and there's now an early warning network with the major neutrino detectors so astronomers can get a heads-up if a type II is about to happen so they know where to point the telescopes. http://snews.bnl.gov/ [bnl.gov] Since the neutrino flux drops off quickly (like 1/r^2), supernovae need to be very close to us for to be able to pick out the neutrinos over all the solar neutrinos and general background junk. I don't fully understand the dynamics of Type Ia supernova (and I'm not an astronomer or an astrophysicist) but my impression is that there's also reason to believe that type Ia will produce fewer neutrinos than a Type II supernova. Between that and the distance, this supernova was probably too far away for us to detect any neutrinos.I suspect that the people who run the major detectors are probably looking over their data for the last few days very carefully to see if they can pick up any signal that the regular automated systems missed.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      This supernova was very close to us.

      It's in another galaxy. Are these things really so rare that the closest one we've ever seen is in another galaxy?

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        The last one we saw in our galaxy was in 1604 so yes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler's_Nova [wikipedia.org]. They are more common than that. so there probably have been supernova in our galaxy. But given our position in the galaxy there's a large part of our galaxy where if a supernova happens we weren't that likely to see if (because there are so many stars and dust in the way). That's not the case as much since we have much better, larger telescopes. But yeah, they are pretty rare.
      • by AlecC (512609)

        This supernova was very close to us.

        It's in another galaxy. Are these things really so rare that the closest one we've ever seen is in another galaxy?

        Yes, within the time of modern instruments. The last one in this galaxy was Kepler's Supernova in 1604. However, we sould expect about 0ne every 50 years, so we are having a bit of a drought,

    • by StupendousMan (69768) on Friday August 26, 2011 @10:13AM (#37218486) Homepage

      Alas, we shouldn't expect any neutrinos to be detected from this event. I am an astronomer who studies supernovae, and the Type Ia events --- those due to a runaway thermonuclear reaction inside a white dwarf --- do _not_ produce the same sort of giant burst of neutrinos as core-collapse events.

      In addition, this supernova is much, much farther away than SN 1987A. This event, in M101, is about 6400 kpc away, while SN 1987A was only about 50 kpc away. So, in very rough terms, the new SN is about 100 times farther away ... which means than the flux of particles from it will be about 100*100 = 10,000 times weaker than that from an object at the distance of SN 1987A. We only detected about 30-40 neutrinos in total from SN 1987A, so, even if this new supernova was a core-collapse event (which it isn't), we might only expect 40/10,000 = 0.004 neutrinos to be detected.

      Yes, yes, today's neutrino detectors are larger than the ones operating in 1987. However, I don't think they could make up this sort of difference. And remember, a Type Ia supernova doesn't produce as many neutrinos to start with.

      But this should be a good object for people to see through telescopes or (possibly) binoculars!

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        Thanks. That helps clarify things a lot.
      • by Ed_1024 (744566)

        But this should be a good object for people to see through telescopes or (possibly) binoculars!

        Do not look into supernova with remaining eye!

        (Sorry, I'm in Japan today and was reminded of that saying by the bad English on the kettle...)

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        This event, in M101

        But this should be a good object for people to see through telescopes or (possibly) binoculars!

        Oh hell yeah! I was worried I wouldn't be able to see it, but M101 is up at night now. I'm so pointing my C11 at it. Too bad that's right in the direction of the worst light pollution.

        Is the light from this type of supernova amenable to the use of any amateur visible-light filters? I'd buy one just for this event if so. =D

      • by habig (12787)

        Yes, yes, today's neutrino detectors are larger than the ones operating in 1987. However, I don't think they could make up this sort of difference.

        Correct, it's a simple matter of 1/r^2 geometry. SN1987A was at 51.4 kpc. M101 is at 6.5 Mpc. So even if this was a core-collapse supernova (which it's not), we would see only 62-millionths of the signal as we did in 1987. Our detectors are bigger, but only 50 times bigger. We're still three orders of magnitude away from seeing this one with neutrinos.

        Even a neutrino producing SN in the next big galaxy neighbor we have (M31 in Andromeda) would only give us about one neutrino event in our biggest detect

    • I wish it was only 21 miles from DC.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Type Ia supernovae are thought to be potentially the most dangerous if they occur close enough to the Earth. Because these supernovae arise from dim, common white dwarf stars, it is likely that a supernova that can affect the Earth will occur unpredictably and in a star system that is not well studied. One theory suggests that a Type Ia supernova would have to be closer than a thousand parsecs (3300 light-years) to affect the Earth.[108]

    [108]: http://www.tass-survey.org/richmond/answers/snrisks.txt

    Well, at

  • Came here to say "In b4 'It was 21 Mio years ago!'". Unfortunately, my message could travel only that fast....

    But seriously, guys, relativity isn't exactly "breaking news" today. Everyone knows that it takes a year for light to travel a light-year (DUH!). Don't you have any other way, to show you intellectual superiority?

  • Um, this supernova happened 21 million years ago. How could they have possibly caught it within hours of the explosion as the summary claims?

  • by sjames (1099)

    How did a supernova throw a pie? They don't even have arms!>/p>

    OH! coSmic!

Save energy: Drive a smaller shell.

Working...