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A Starburst and a Supernova

Messier 82 (also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy or M82) is the prototypenearby starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The starburst galaxy is five times more luminous than the whole Milky Way and one hundred times more luminous than our galaxy’s center.The starburst activity is thought to be triggered by interaction with neighboring galaxy M81, and M82 is a member of the M81 Group.

On 21 January 2014 at 19.20 UT a previously unseen star was observed in M82 by Dr. Steve J. Fossey, along with a team of 4 of his students, at UCL’s training observatory, the University of London Observatory. Later observations of M82 found the supernova to be present on 15, 16, 17, 19, 20 and 22 January, brightening from magnitude +14.4 to +11.3; there was no sign of it, to limiting magnitude +17, on 14 January. It was suggested that it could become as bright as magnitude +8.5, well within the visual range of small telescopes and large binoculars. Preliminary analysis classified it as “a young, reddened Type Ia supernova”. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has designated it SN 2014J. This is one of the closest supernovae to earth observed in recent decades.

Credit: NASA/Hubble/Wikipedia