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Possible Supernova In Nearby Spiral Galaxy 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the sorry-about-your-luck-aliens dept.
New submitter Zburatorul writes "In an electronic telegram to the IAU, an Italian astronomer reports his discovery of a possible supernova (magnitude R = 15) near spiral galaxy M95 on images taken March 16th. Many more independent and confirming observations are trickling in. The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, has a more layman-friendly article about it. The bad news: it won't be visible with the naked eye. The good news: it's not going to kill us."
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Possible Supernova In Nearby Spiral Galaxy

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:25PM (#39422927)

    The bad news: It won't be visible to the naked eye.

    Bummer man! Bummer!

    The good news: It's not going to kill us.

    Well THAT sucks!

    Wait, what?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:30PM (#39422949)
    More likely cause is that they got their version of the Large Hadron Collider up to full power.
  • by ehiris (214677) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:39PM (#39422997) Homepage

    Since it occurred 40 million years ago, it must have killed off the dinosaurs.

    • Since it occurred 40 million years ago, it must have killed off the dinosaurs.

      If it's taken the light from the supernova 40 million years to reach Earth, then wouldn't it take any deadly radiation at least that long to reach us? The dinosaurs missed out on any possible threat from this explosion by about 40 million years.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The dinosaurs missed out on any possible threat from this explosion by about 40 million years.

        Hear that WOOOOSH? That's the joke flying overhead 25.5 million years too late. [wikipedia.org]

        • The dinosaurs missed out on any possible threat from this explosion by about 40 million years.

          Hear that WOOOOSH? That's the joke flying overhead 25.5 million years too late. [wikipedia.org]

          Yes, but we didn't have Slashdot 25.5 million years ago, so the tardiness is excusable.

  • I've received some nice pictures of the galaxy+SN which I just posted to the blog as well [discovermagazine.com]. Looks like this is a Type II, the explosion of a massive star at the end of its short life.
    • That is very cool. Thanks for that.
    • Very cool. Thanks for the link.

    • by niftydude (1745144) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:17PM (#39423249)
      Hey Bad Astronomer, do you think this has a chance of being a big enough explosion for the LIGA gravity wave interferometers to detect?
      • Is any current neutrino detector sensitive enough to pick up a signal? 40 million light years should/could be enough to get a lower bound on the mass.
        • First, this is a type Ia supernova, which produces fewer neutrinos and a much smaller gravitational wave signal than a core-collapse supernova.

          Second, any supernova in a galaxy beyond the Local Group (the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, and some smaller companions) is too far to produce enough neutrinos or gravitational waves to be detected by our current instruments.

          Rats.

      • by Ruie (30480)
        No, as we don't know exactly what the gravitational signal from a supernova will be and as the energy released as gravitational waves is estimated to be relatively weak, it is highly unlikely that modern interferometers will detect a supernova outside of our galaxy.

        Also, LIGO and Virgo interferometers are presently undergoing an upgrade to increase sensitivity, GEO600 [geo600.org] is the only sensitive instrument in operation, just in case we have a supernova close by or an inspiral not too far away (but not too close

    • I've received some nice pictures of the galaxy+SN which I just posted to the blog as well [discovermagazine.com]. Looks like this is a Type II, the explosion of a massive star at the end of its short life.

      Is Slashdot the official discussion board for your site? Not that I mind the stories, but these days every time I see something interesting on your site, I say to myself "that will be on Slashdot tomorrow".

  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:56PM (#39423099)

    An "electronic telegram?" Great, let's head up to Mauna Kea and confirm their results. I propose we travel by horseless sleigh.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... before one goes off close enough for us to get decent optical imagery of it as it obliterates other objects in its path...

    Actually, does anyone know if that type of resolution is possible optically with the hardware we have up there (and taking into consideration the contrast in light necessary to resolve the different objects)?

  • This has always hurt my brain: from our frame of reference, if this supernova is ~40Mly away, is it happening now or did it happen 40M years ago?
    • Re:Relativity (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kreigaffe (765218) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:35PM (#39423379)

      Huh?

      It happened ~40 million years ago. We're just now seeing it.

      Not a hard concept, not even relativity really. Go outside, see a gunshot from a great distance (or, well, anything else loud). You'll see it before you hear it. At such relatively short distances, light takes very little time to reach your eye, but sound takes much longer. Now increase the distance, and light takes a long time too. Bam.

      • Huh?

        It happened ~40 million years ago. We're just now seeing it.

        Not a hard concept, not even relativity really. Go outside, see a gunshot from a great distance (or, well, anything else loud). You'll see it before you hear it. At such relatively short distances, light takes very little time to reach your eye, but sound takes much longer. Now increase the distance, and light takes a long time too. Bam.

        So, when will we be hearing the bang from the supernova?

        • So, when will we be hearing the bang from the supernova?

          That depends on what you go back in time and fill space with, through which the sounds created by the supernova can propagate

      • When you scale up to large distances and high relative velocities, the concept of simultaneity goes out the window.

        Our velocity is relative to M95 is a pretty small percentage of the speed of light, so in our inertial frame, it appears as if it happened ~40million (actually closer to 32 million) years ago.

        If our relative velocity were much higher, it would appear to have happened either either more recently or longer ago (depending if we were moving toward or away from M95.)

        In this case (talking only about

    • This has always hurt my brain: from our frame of reference, if this supernova is ~40Mly away, is it happening now or did it happen 40M years ago?

      Well, according to the most popular view of QM, a wave function doesn't collapse until an observation is made. So unless there are alien species that live closer to it and watch the skies, it has spent the last 40My in a superposition of "went nova" and "didn't go nova". So in some sense it "happened" just now.

      Or maybe 40My into the future, since it will take that long for the fact that we have observed it to propagate back to the star.

      Hope that makes you brain hurt less.

      • by dissy (172727) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:04AM (#39425503)

        Well, according to the most popular view of QM, a wave function doesn't collapse until an observation is made. So unless there are alien species that live closer to it and watch the skies, it has spent the last 40My in a superposition of "went nova" and "didn't go nova". So in some sense it "happened" just now.

        No not quite. The word is "measurement" not "observation".
        Once the photon gets absorbed by Anything, it has been measured, or as you call it "observed". This can be a spec of dust floating in space, or a bit of rock or gas on a dead world. It could be next to anything that absorbs that photon to collapse its wave, and that something does not need to be alive or conscious or more than just a simple little atom of hydrogen.

        Also with relativity you can not use "when something happens" alone as a metric. No such thing exists. The question is "when something happens, from what point of view"

        From the stars point of view, yes it happened long ago and our part of the universe is just now being affected by it and seeing it.
        From our point of view, the light just made it here, so it just happened.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          No not quite. The word is "measurement" not "observation".

          Thank you! And the logic that goes "measurement -> observation -> observer" is basically a pun.

          It's only "the most popular view of QM" for new-age bullshit peddlers who use this pun-based interpretation to suggest that maybe QM is what allows all their bullshit psychic powers and so forth to work. It is trying to take science and turn it back into superstitious magic.

        • by thrich81 (1357561)

          Let's take your hydrogen atom example above for simplicity -- does the photon "really" get absorbed by the H atom or do the photon and H atom exist in a quantum superposition of "photon got absorbed" and "photon didn't get absorbed" until some other "observer" comes along and decides the situation? So where do the superpositions end until you postulate a sentient observer and how do you define that? I don't know the answers.

          • by dissy (172727)

            In answer, there is nothing special about the atoms in your eyeball that are doing the absorbing of the photon.

            Where a single hydrogen atom absorbing the photon simply goes into a higher energy state (aka, it gets warmer), the many many atoms in your eye that form a cone or rod will both get warmer as well as fire off an electrochemical signal.

            The photon absorption happens a very very long time before that signal leaves your eye, let alone reaches your brain.
            Our bodies chemical systems are pretty slow, but

            • by thrich81 (1357561)

              We may have to just agree to disagree on this topic but here's another look at it -- Let's say the H atom (in ground state) and photon are in a perfectly reflecting box so that neither can get away or be absorbed by the box. Again for simplicity say that the photon has only enough energy to take the H atom to its first excited state. All that QM can tell us is that, if a measurement is made (by something other than the atom and photon), what the probability is that the H atom will be found in its first ex

  • by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:37PM (#39423387) Homepage

    If Betelgeuse, very much in our galaxy, and quite visible to the naked eye even before it goes supernova, is no threat (and it's not, though it could go supernova any time in the next million years), why on Earth would we be worried about an explosion in another galaxy?

    Supernova occur (and are observed) fairly regularly. The estimated rate of supernova production in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way is about one every 50 years. We know of millions of galaxies. It's always nice to catch one as it's occurring, especially one as close as this, but the summary is just ridiculous.

    • by Opyros (1153335)
      From TFA (the Bad Astronomy post):

      And as a final note for now: we're in no danger from this. I normally wouldn't bother writing that, but a lot of people seem jittery due to 1) the 2012 nonsense, b) the recent (coincidental) solar flares, and Î) the asteroids (DA14 and AG5) I wrote about last week. So to proclude any fear-mongering, I'll just say this supernova is something like 400 million trillion kilometers away, and probably won't even get bright enough to see in binoculars. I hope that helps assuage any fears.

      Unfortunately, Slashdot refuses to display the lowercase gamma correctly, ruining Phil's joke.

      • From TFA (the Bad Astronomy post):

        And as a final note for now: we're in no danger from this. I normally wouldn't bother writing that, but a lot of people seem jittery due to 1) the 2012 nonsense, b) the recent (coincidental) solar flares, and Î) the asteroids (DA14 and AG5) I wrote about last week. So to proclude any fear-mongering, I'll just say this supernova is something like 400 million trillion kilometers away, and probably won't even get bright enough to see in binoculars. I hope that helps assuage any fears.

        I doubt that his reassurances will actually make much difference, since anyone who knows what a kilometer is already knew that it's not a threat.

    • You must be new here. This is the planet where primitive Mayans chip out calendars on stone and present day idiots believe the world is ending because the Mayan calendar is. Special idiots spend their life savings building bunkers to prepare for this predicted-by-primitives apocalypse.

      If anything, you should be surprised people aren't cowering in their basements wrapped in tin foil.

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        You must be new here.

        Really. Four digits in my id, and you think I must be new here?

        This is the planet where...

        Oh, you mean here on Earth? But this wasn't just posted on Earth--it was posted on Slashdot. News for Nerds! When it comes to idiotic ignorance, we reserve that for: what women want, how governments and companies work, what a marketing department does, what "offsides" means, why anyone might think that software is patentable, why anyone would care about aesthetics or bathing, and similar questions.

        When it comes to physics and astronomy and a

        • Obviously, "You must be new here." is a joke, though tbh I don't count digits before I reply. Old IDs aren't necessarily still owned by the original holder, not that that matters.

          But yeah, I was merely taking a swipe at the nutty people out there who worry about nonsensical things, and saying that another instance of people worrying about nonsensical things is just par for the course.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      If Betelgeuse, very much in our galaxy, and quite visible to the naked eye even before it goes supernova, is no threat (and it's not, though it could go supernova any time in the next million years), why on Earth would we be worried about an explosion in another galaxy?

      Well the first step is to not know anything of what you just said about Betelgeuse.

      The second step is to not really understand what a "galaxy" is or how far away anything happening in another galaxy is.

      The third step is to be easily panicked by anything that sounds remotely scary like "Mayans predict end of world in 2012!" and thus jump everytime anything happens in that year.

      There are a lot of these people, and Phil Plait has on many occasions been asked -- and frequently tries on his own -- to calm people

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        Well the first step is to not know anything of what you just said about Betelgeuse.

        Sorry, I thought this was slashdot. We may not RTFA; we may not know how to pleasure a woman, or what a goverment does, but when it comes to computers or tech or Star Wars or Star Trek or anything to do with stars, really, I expect a level of knowledge second to none. If you really need to be told any of this stuff, I think you may be on the wrong site.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Sorry, I thought this was slashdot.

          Yes, this is /., and on /. we make fun of people who are worried a supernova is going to kill us because the Mayans predicted the end of the world, especially in Bad Astronomer posts. Which is why that was added in the summary.

    • by khallow (566160)

      If Betelgeuse, very much in our galaxy, and quite visible to the naked eye even before it goes supernova, is no threat (and it's not, though it could go supernova any time in the next million years)

      We know this for somewhat different reasons. Betelguese won't be a threat because it's axis of rotation is not in line with Earth (and at that distance, is the only means for it to be of potential harm to Earth). The other supernova wouldn't be a threat whether or not its axis of rotation is lined up with Earth because of distance.

  • That's really, really nearby... if you define 'nearby' like the Nearby Supernova Factory [lbl.gov] I'm in - 400 million to 1 billion light years.

    This one is only 15.4 million light years away. So close it could practically order pizza.

  • The name Zburatorul intrigued me, so I had to Google it for images and found some bird images and a image of a dragon which led me to a Romanian webpage written in French, http://www.produsin.ro/lingua/zburatorul-ou-son-mythe/ [produsin.ro]. Since Google can translate it for me, here it it is:

    Among the beliefs and superstitions Romanian there are many myths and legends that speak of the existence of some supernatural being, who have a positive or negative influence on human life.

    This is also true of the myth of Zburatoru

    • Folk beliefs describe him as an evil spirit who loves to wander, from midnight until dawn, sneaking into the houses where there are virgin, pregnant women or widows, as a flame or a snake to torment.

      That's hard to parse. I suspect he finds lots snakes to torment, but not any "virgin, pregnant women" or "widows, as a flame".

  • by msevior (145103) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @06:00AM (#39425061)

    Back of the envolope calculation follows:

    Distance to SN1987a = 1.9x10^5 light years
    Distance to M95 = 4x10^7 light years

    Ratio of neutrino flux SN1987a / M95 = (1.9/400)^2 = 2.2x10^-5

    Number of neutrinos detected at Kamiokanda from SN1987a = 10
    Sensitivity of Super-Kamiokanda (Super-K) = 20x that of Kamiokanda

    Expected number of nu's from M95 at Super-K = 20x10x2.2x10^-5 = 0.004 :-(

  • I remember when thunderf00t did a live supernova-showing from Pine Mountain in Oregon, freezing his balls off to let us see it happen. I'd just gotten into the main chatroom, sans the trolls we had to put up with in the general chat, hanging out with Dawkins and others who'd joined to watch while tf00t had serious technical difficulties... and juuust as he got everything sorted and started sending out the live-ish pics, my computer froze, leaving me to refresh, get sent back to the pit of voles-chat and mis

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