Date: May 27/28th, 2023
Exposure: 69 x 3 minutes (3h 27min)
Telescope: Sky-Watcher Equinox 120ED
Mount: Software Bisque Paramount MX
Camera: Player One Poseidon-C Pro (IMX571)
Filter: IDAS LPS-D3 2" • Optolong L-Ultimate
Accessories: ESATTO 2" Focuser • ZWO EFW 5x2" • Astro Hutech SCA 2" Flattener
Guiding: SVBony SV165 Mini Guide Scope • ASI462MC
Software: Photoshop • PixInsight • TheSkyX • Starkeeper Voyager
SN 2023ixf is a Type II supernova that occurred in the photogenic Pinwheel Galaxy M101, which is only about 21 million light years away, making it the closest supernova seen in the past five years, the second closest in the past 10 years, and the second supernova found in M101 in the past 15 years(1)(2)(3)(4)(5). The supernova was discovered by Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki on May 19th, 2023 and subsequently located on automated images from the Zwicky Transient Facility two days earlier(1). Rapid follow-up observations already indicate that SN 2023ixf will likely brighten and remain visible to telescopes for months(1).
The facinating part of the image above is that all the stars you see are foreground stars from our Milky Way Galaxy. The Supernova stands out bright among them, shining brighter than most even though it is 21 million light-years further away. If you compare this image to the top image of M101, you'll notice that SN 2023ixf is not present as the light didn't reach us until 6 weeks after it was imaged.
Supernovae are the biggest explosions that ever take place in space, the demise of a massive star that can outshine galaxies(6). They can briefly have the power of up to 100 billion stars(6). According to NASA, supernovae explosions heat the interstellar medium—the empty space between stars—and spread heavy elements throughout a galaxy(6). In fact, a lot of heavy elements necessary for life are created by the nuclear reactions inside stars, which are then spewed into the cosmos during a supernova explosion(6). Supernovae can briefly outshine entire galaxies and radiate more energy than our sun will in its entire lifetime(3). They're also the primary source of bright, five-minute bursts of X-rays(3). Supernovae add enriching elements to space clouds of dust and gas, further interstellar diversity, and produce a shock wave that compresses clouds of gas to aid new star formation(4).
- (1) https://science.nasa.gov/supernova-discovered-nearby-spiral-galaxy-m101
- (2) https://nybreaking.com/astronomers-capture-amazing-image-of-a-21-million-year-old-supernova/
- (3) https://tech.hindustantimes.com/tech/news/nasa-astronomy-picture-of-the-day-22-may-2023-supernova-snapped-by-astrophotographer-71684738699903.html
- (4) https://earthsky.org/todays-image/supernova-in-m101-pinwheel-galaxy-closest-in-a-decade-how-to-see/
- (5) https://www.newscientist.com/article/2375301-astronomers-race-to-observe-rare-supernova-in-a-nearby-galaxy/
- (6) https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2023/05/25/what-is-a-supernova-closest-shattered-star-in-a-decade-explained/