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New supernova pops up just over there

Grab your telescope and look for SN 2012aw in M95

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

It probably won’t get to a point where we’ll see it with the naked eye, but even amateur astronomers should be able to get set for a fairly unusual treat: an emerging supernova.

At the moment, it only rates as a “possible” supernova – although the well-known Bad Astronomy blog says it’s nearly certain – but the possibility of catching a supernova “in the act”, so to speak, is a hot prospect for astronomers.

The object, in the nearby M95 spiral galaxy, was observed two days ago, as this message sent to the International Astronomical Union (link posted to Slashdot) outlines.

Since then, other notes to the IAU’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams provide further follow-up reports, with links to images here and here.

With, again, credit to Bad Astronomy for the pointer, the Astrobob blog has a handy chart to help amateurs pick out M95. And since the supernova’s type is not yet classified, the observations of amateurs certainly won’t be sneered at by the experts.

Astrobob notes that an eight-inch telescope should suffice to see the M95 supernova.

M95 is a relative neighbour to the Milky Way in galactic terms – but it’s still 38 million light-years distant, so we don’t have to worry about being fried in our sleep. ®

Update: Since I wrote this, the supernova has been confirmed and named: its designation is SN 2012aw. ®

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