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Supernova at its 'closest and brightest' in 40 years.

Summary: The nearest supernova of its type to be discovered for 40 years is predicted to be at its brightest on Wednesday and Thursday night.

The nearest supernova of its type to be discovered for 40 years is predicted to be at its brightest on Wednesday and Thursday night, and will be visible through a good pair of binoculars.

The exploding star, known as PTF11kly, was first spotted on 24 August by scientists from Oxford University and the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) using a robotic telescope in California.

It was discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101, a spiral galaxy 21 million light years away, lying in the famous constellation of the Great Bear.

Oxford team leader, Dr Mark Sullivan, said: "The most exciting thing is that this is what's known as a type 1a supernova - the kind we use to measure the expansion of the Universe. Seeing one explode so close by allows us to study these events in unprecedented detail.

"The best time to see this will be just after evening twilight in the Northern hemisphere. You'll need dark skies and a good pair of binoculars, although a small telescope would be even better."

The scientists at PTF have discovered more than 1,000 supernovae since it started operating in 2008, but they believe this could be their most significant discovery yet. The last time a supernova of this sort occurred so close was in 1972.

They say that to find M101, look for the formation known as 'The Plough', trace from the end of its 'handle' and find the second star along, Mirza, and M101 lies four degrees to the East.

Observers will see the bright supernova at the edge of one of M101's spiral arms.

Independent Television News Limited 2011. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2011. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Date:Sep 10, 2011
Words:312
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