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Twitter Helps Astronomers Zero-In On M51 Supernova 55

astroengine writes "A tweet about last week's M51 (the 'Whirlpool Galaxy') 14-magnitude bright stellar explosion was picked up by University of California, Berkeley, astronomers... who just so happened to be enjoying some observing time on one of Keck Observatory's monster telescopes. Although the weather wasn't perfect, the Berkeley team were able to quickly observe a spectrum from the M51 brightening to quickly confirm that it was a Type II supernova — the core collapse of a massive star, some 8 times the mass of the sun. 'This is the first time that we've been alerted via a tweet,' Alex Filippenko, lead astronomer of the UC Berkeley team, told Discovery News."
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Twitter Helps Astronomers Zero-In On M51 Supernova

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  • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @02:02AM (#36384324)

    (The one up on the hill.)

    Early data on stuff from Keck, Gemini or Subaru is rare, yeah, unless you have a bunch of Target-of-Opportunity time or can persuade people to take a few shots for you during their programs. But even on Mauna Kea, there are lesser (but still "huge" to most people) scopes where time's easier to get, so when your survey pipeline (from KAIT or PTF or QUEST or whatever you want) throws you a new target, you don't have to wait more than a couple nights before going after it.

    We [] have somewhere around 40% of the time on the 2.2-meter [] on Mauna Kea, which is our usual tool for going after SNe, although of course some of the bigger names in the collaboration (Perlmutter, Aldering) get time on Keck as well.

    If there hadn't been a lightning strike at the 2.2-m during last weekend's snow-and-lightning storm, I would be observing the M51 supernova this evening (and not for the first time). Pesky lightning! :(

  • Re:Priorities? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shag ( 3737 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @02:07AM (#36384346)

    Well, pretty much any night of the year, professional astronomers are observing this kind of supernova, so that part is not (to those of us in the field) particularly newsworthy. ;)

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!