Supernova SN 2023ixf in the Messier 101 spiral galaxy: a image – 21 May 2023.
A brand new supernova is shining, once again, in the stunning spiral galaxy Messier 101: it is SN 2023ixf and it is easily visible with small telescopes. We observed it last night and are pleased to share our image here.
Messier 101, the “Pinwheel” galaxy, did it again. After supernova SN 2011fe, one of the brightest ones of the last decades, this stunning “cosmic island” offers us another huge cosmic explosion: supernova SN 2023ixf.
On 19 May 2023, Koichi Itagaki, one of the most prolific supernova discoverers of our times, has found a new transient in M101, quickly confirmed to be a type II supernova, that is originating from the core collapse of a massive star. Once the news of the discovery has spread around, several images taken a bit earlier were found, with the supernova already visibile. In other words, this transient was caught at the very beginning of the supernova event (the host galaxy being so famous, hence so much imaged, being the main reason).
The host galaxy, Messier 101, is one of the most important, nearby galaxies. Discovered in 1781 by Pierre François André Méchain, its distance from us is estimated to be “just” about 20-million light years. It is larger and host more stars than our Milky Way. Being relatively close, a supernova can reach such an apparent luminosity to be visible through small telescopes.
Weather in Italy has been very bad for many weeks in a row, recently, so we missed the opportunity to following up this supernova soon after it was announced. Sky conditions marginally improved last night, just for one hour, so we decided to take the risk to try. We asked the Celestron C14+Paramount ME+SBIG ST8-XME robotic unit available as part of the Virtual Telescope Project to capture a few images, before clouds came back.
We estimated SN 2023ixf as bright as mag. 10.9 (unfiltered, R-mags for the reference stars from the Gaia DR2 star catalogue); please note that this is a very preliminary estimate.
The image on the very top of this post is a screenshot from the imaging session, with an arrow showing SN 2023ixf. Below, a few frames were combined and the resulting image is compared with a old (2011) image from our archives (upper right inset).
Likely, supernova SN 2023ixf will reach its peak on these very days and for many weeks it will be easy to capture for amateur astronomers. We will keep a close eye on it and will plan a live feed to show it to you!
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