Supernova: Cosmic fireworks light up galaxy 55 million light-years away in ‘amazing view’

The supernova, which was only discovered this month, erupted on the outer edges of the spiral galaxy M61. The spinning star cluster is located some 55 million light-years from Earth and sits in the southern constellation Virgo. Astronomers observed the supernova on May 6 using The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in California.

The supernova, officially dubbed SN 2020jfo, erupted in M61 just four years after the supernova SN 2014dt.

Supernovas are monstrous cosmic explosions, triggered by a large star at the end of its lifecycle.

According to astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, M61 is now “one of the most prolific galaxies for these cosmic cataclysms”.

Dr Masi, who leads the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, snapped a photo of M61 and SN 2020jfo on May 12.


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The black and white image shows the distinct spiral structure of the Messier galaxy.

The supernova can be seen as a bright dot of light on the upper edge of the galaxy.

Dr Masi said: “On May 12, we captured a new image of the stunning galaxy Messier 61 and its supernova SN 2020jfo.

“The sky was very clear for about one hour and the view was amazing, so we are proud to share our image with you.”

Dr Masi’s image is the average of eight exposures, each 3,000 seconds long.

We captured a new image of the stunning galaxy Messier 61 and its supernova

Dr Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project

The photos were snapped by Elena, a 17-inch remote telescope operated by the Virtual Telescope.

At the time of the picture, the supernova was at a magnitude of about 14.4.

Dr Masi said: “This is marginally brighter than a few days ago.

“Spectra suggested it was a young supernova at the discovery time.”

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You can see from the photo, M61 faces us almost perfectly face-on, showcasing its barred spiral structure.

Spiral galaxies are the most popular type of galaxy in the universe, and our Milky Way is one of them.

Dr Masi said: “It is one of the most beautiful members of the prominent Virgo Cluster of galaxies.

“As you can see, there are other galaxies around, in particular, we see NGC 4292 and NGC 4301/3.

“On the image, you also see a satellite trail on the left.”

After spiral galaxies, round galaxies are the second most populous type in the universe.

But there are also clusters that appear to be shaped like a ring, are long and slender or have no clearly defined shape.

The US space agency NASA said: “The shapes of galaxies are influenced by their neighbours, and, often, galaxies collide.

“The Milky Way is itself on a collision course with our nearest neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy.”

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