By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Apple Valley) – The High Desert Astronomical Society is hosting a public viewing event tonight at the Luz Observatory in the Lewis Center for Educational Research. Tonight’s viewing may offer something rare – a glimpse at a supernova.
The supernova, which is essentially an exploding star, has been named PTF 11kly. It exploded in the Big Dipper, 21 million light-years away in the Pinwheel Galaxy on August 23rd. Researchers have been watching the supernova evolve over the last couple of weeks. Catching it so early in its formation and evolution is a rare treat, researchers said.
“This is a type 1A supernova, the one astronomers like because it allows us to measure distances in the universe since they are so bright,” said Dave Meyer, President of HiDAS. “The fact that this one occurred so close to us, and they caught it fairly soon after it started is exciting.”
Supernovae can help scientists measure the size and age of the universe. “The Type 1 supernova was used about 10-15 years ago to determine that the expansion of the universe is accelerating,” said Meyer.
“Astronomers will study the light curve and the spectrum of the exploding start. They hope to learn more about this type of supernova than they have learned before because others have been so distant,” added Meyer
The interesting part for amateur astronomers is that viewing is accessible to anyone with a decent pair of binoculars. For many it could be a once in a lifetime chance to see a supernova blossom and then fade, if you know where to look. The members of the High Desert Astronomical Society can help you with that tonight at the Luz Observatory in the Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley, starting at 7:30pm.
For more information visit their website www.hidasonline.com/