Supernova in M82

Supernovae – the Secret Sauce of Serendipitous Discovery

January 21st of 2014, a  group of astronomy students  analysing some images for a classroom study on a supernova in the famous nearby irregular galaxy in Ursa Major. Its Messier Catalog ID is M82, and it is known as the ‘cigar’ galaxy.The supernova was discovered by astronomer Steve Fossey, of University College London. Fossey was training four undergraduate students…
The discovery was serendipitous, because Fossey was not searching for supernovae and wanted to take advantage of a short gap in the cloud cover  [Ed]. He later said that “The weather was closing in, with increasing cloud, so instead of the planned practical astronomy class, I gave the students an introductory demonstration of how to use the CCD camera on one of the observatory’s automated 0.35–metre telescopes.”… courtesy

“Cloud cover” … serendipitous discovery … shows that you can even do astronomy research on cloudy nights!

It also shows that amateurs and professionals alike can engage in this activity. This image was taken in my observatory in Mississippi Mills several weeks after the announcement was issued. Fortunately I had previous images to make a mark-one eyeball visual comparison…. The image on the right is a ‘before’ shot .


Image – courtesy P. Browne January 2014

Supernova 1987A – Type 1A – Standard Candle Progenitor – Canadian Research

Canadian Astronomers have been very active in Supernova Research. One of the most significant Supernovae of the 20th century is Supernova 1987A discovered by the then University of Toronto grad student Ian Shelton:

On February 24, 2:40 a.m., 1987, Shelton, while working in Chile for the University of Toronto Las Campanas Observatory, discovered a previously undetected bright light on a photograph of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Initially skeptical, Shelton went outside to look with the naked eye, and saw that the bright light was indeed present. His discovery turned out to be a supernova, the first visible to the naked eye since Johannes Kepler observed SN 1604 nearly 383 years prior. – courtesy This supernova has been followed for nearly 30 years and has provided very important detail on the aftermath of this kind of explosion.

 SuperNova Scotia – more Canadian Research

Also of note is Dave Lane and the Gray Family contributions from Supernova 1995F (Super Nova Scotia) to recent detections by the son and daughter of Dave’s colleague, Paul Gray . See Supernovae, Canadian Connection

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