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Ia supernova discovered Wednesday, August 24

02/09/2011
Type Ia supernova PTF11kly in M101

A type Ia supernova discovered Wednesday, August 24, in the nearby galaxy M101 in Ursa Major is the nearest type Ia supernova astronomers have found since 1986.

The brightness of this exploding star is on the rise, and it could be visible in a 6-inch telescope within approximately a week. Visibility of the galaxy and its supernova will be best in the evening sky over the next few days, before the Big Dipper sinks too far and before early September brings the Moon into the equation.

Type Ia supernovae are catastrophic explosions that result from binary stars consisting of a white dwarf star and a companion, in which the dwarf draws material from its companion until reaching a critical point, reigniting nuclear fusion and causing a runaway explosion of the white dwarf that typically outshines the entire host galaxy for some time.

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