Amateur astrophotographers capture bright supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy
SN 2023ixf has newly appeared in spiral galaxy M101 and has been photographed over the past few nights.
An amateur astrophotographer has captured an image showing the newly-appeared supernova that has been observed in a galaxy 21 million lightyears away.
The Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as M101, can be seen in the constellation Ursa Major.
The supernova, designated SN 2023ixf, was first spotted in the galaxy by astronomer Koichi Itagaki on 19 May 2023.
It was then located in images that had been captured automatically by the Zwicky Transient Facility two days earlier.
The Pinwheel Galaxy's distance to Earth makes this the closest supernova in 5 years.
Amateur astrophotographer and retired physicist Jane Clark photographed the Pinwheel Galaxy from her home in Wales shortly after the new supernova was announced, and managed to capture the bright stellar explosion in her images (see above).
"With my telescope pointing elsewhere, I wandered into the house and found news of the supernova on social media," says Clark, who is the observatory manager at Cardiff Astronomical Society.
"I made my excuses to M64, the galaxy I had been imaging, and moved the scope across to M101, being very keen to get one of the first images, even if it wasn't very good.
"Actually, for a piece of unplanned photojournalism, I was very pleased with the result. I obtained 90 x 60s frames, and was able to use 69 of them.
"The live stack facility in SharpCap 4.0 enabled me to see that the exploding star was easily visible. I used an 11-inch Celestron SCT on a CGX mount, with an f/6.3 focal reducer.
"The camera I used to capture the supernova was a ZWO ASI2600MC. I stacked in Siril 1.0.6 and processed the image in PixInsight 1.8.9-1 with the RC extensions, then added finishing touches in Gimp.
"My date and location at the time of capture was Risca, Wales, 51.6N, 3.08W - 2023 May 21, 01:09-02:41 UT."
Since the supernova has been discovered, follow-up investigations have revealed that that SN 2023ixf is a Type II supernova, which is a type of stellar explosion that occurs when a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses.
And since Clark sent her images into us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine, another amateur astrophotographer has shared his own images of SN 2023ixf.
Martin Bracken is a regular contributor to our Readers' Gallery in the magazine, and sent us the amazing collage above of images showing the supernova's appearance and brightening over time.
"This is a collage of 4 images of the newly discovered Supernova in M101," says Bracken.
"I was lucky enough to be imaging M101 on the day it was discovered and the subsequent 3 days. The image clearly shows the progression of the supernova over those three days.
"All images were captured from my backyard in Chelmsford, UK."
And, just this morning, our Twitter feed has included quite a few wonderful images of the supernova, too.
One user, named Astro Mike, posted this capture:
And Chris Lee of the University of Leicester managed to capture this image, which he shared on Twitter:
Since we first published this story, we've received a plethora of images of M101 showing the location of SN 2023ixf, sent in by readers and amateur astrophotographers.
Here are some of the best
Have you managed to captured an image of the new supernova in M101? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.