Time to dust off the old binoculars and head out into the wild unknown that is your backyard -- a supernova will be visible from Earth and will be at its brightest tomorrow, September 8. It's the closest supernova to come near our planet in over 25 years, and scientists around the world are high-fiving one another as they peer into high-tech telescopes. But don't worry, all we laymen need is a pair of binoculars aimed above the handle of the Big Dipper in order to see the super-bright star careening through our night sky.
Orrrr, if you're lazy and/or don't feel like searching in the attic for those damn binoculars that are probably broken anyway, you can just watch one of nature's biggest, baddest, burning balls of gas on video!
The footage was captured this weekend, but tomorrow should be the best days to view it. And by "it," I mean the violently exploding star from our neighboring Pinwheel Galaxy that's 21 million light-years away. It sounds infinitely far, but apparently it's the closest and the brightest to come near Earth since 1972. A Harvard University supernova chaser said that this one that's happening now is a once in a decade, or every four, kind of event.
Oh, and supernovas are massive. Huge. Like, a billion times brighter than our sun and 150 times larger, at least -- it's one of the biggest bangs in the universe. Let's just say if one happened in our galaxy, we'd be kinda screwed. But at 21 million light-years away, we're safe. For decades to come, scientists will be studying and observing the gas hole left by this Pinwheel supernova, hoping to learn as much as they can about it.
So let's celebrate that this latest supernova happened in a land far, far away and that we weren't all obliterated into toxic dust. Hey! Small victories.
This supernova was discovered and first seen by scientists at UC Berkeley (USA! USA! USA!), but the video seems to be taken by a Joe Schmoe like you or me -- still pretty cool though. (Though it could be of a guy in a dark room with a flashlight ... really I have no way of knowing.)
Enjoy the video or head outside tomorrow night; either way, the supernova is a sight to behold!
Will you try and see it?
Photo via Nasa Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr