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Saturday, September 24, 2011

PTF11kly Messier 101 Supernova SN 2011fe

It is my quick effort to catch light from the SN 2011fe. It is 40min Luminace capture with APM Astrograph 107 & Atik 314L. The comparison image was a 3 hours RGB image (which desaturated) since April 2010, with Skywatcher ED80 & QHY8 OSC.

Supernova 2011fe was discovered on August 24, 2011 by the Palomar Transient Factory, a research program run by astronomers at CalTech. Their telescopes caught the explosion very soon after it occurred while they were making routine observations of the galaxy Messier 101 near the Big Dipper (the constellation Ursa Major). Within a few hours of the explosion, the supernova brightened from invisibility to become one of the brightest objects within M101, and has since become even brighter still. It's now nearly a thousand times brighter than when it was first spotted by PTF, and is visible in medium sized back yard telescopes, outshining all of the rest of M101 combined!

An analysis of the light from SN 2011fe shows that it is the type of supernova that originates from a white dwarf, known as a "Type-Ia Supernova". Type-Ia supernovae are very important for cosmology because they can be used to measure distances to the galaxies where they occur. All Type-Ia supernovae give off the same amount of light at their peak brightness, and by measuring the amount of light that we detect, we can measure how far away they must be. We already know the distance to M101 pretty well, but SN 2011fe will allow us to calibrate the relationship between peak brightness and distance better than ever, and will also allow us to study the evolution of this supernova in greater detail than we normally can.

Learn more about PTF11kly Messier 101 Supernova SN 2011fe

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