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Space Twitter Science

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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  • Priorities? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:10PM (#36382142) Homepage

    Why in the world is the observation of supernova the secondary topic in this article? How is the use of Twitter for simple communication more important to the explosion of a star 8 times the mass of our sun?

  • by scapermoya ( 769847 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @09:09PM (#36382554) Homepage
    this is only getting media attention because twitter is "hip" these days. supernova hunters don't care how they get tipped off about a new burst, and all kinds of avenues result in rapid assessments. i've heard of text messages, emails, you name it. we have a system for rapidly alerting the supernova community based around email, i doubt that twitter will replace it.

    the interesting and cool thing about this is that alex happened to be at keck when the news came through, which allowed him to quickly point the monster scope at m51. supernova usually last for months and months, but it is rare for us to get such early data with such powerful machines. it can only really happen randomly.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.