Gemini telescope in Hawaii fixed, captures nearby supernova

Gemini North image of supernova in Pinwheel Galaxy
Click for original image.

The Gemini telescope in Hawaii, which was damaged in 2022 during normal maintenance operations, has now been fixed and resumed observations, beginning with a spectacular image of the newly discovered supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy, only 20 million light years away.

The Gemini North telescope, one half of the International Gemini Observatory operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, has returned from a seven-month hiatus literally with a bang, as it has captured the spectacular aftermath of a supernova, a massive star that exploded in the large, face-on, spiral Pinwheel Galaxy (Messier 101). The supernova, named SN 2023ixf [as indicated by the arrow], was discovered on 19 May by amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki.

Since its discovery, observers around the globe have pointed their telescopes toward Messier 101 to get a look at the burst of light. Over the coming months, Gemini North will allow astronomers to study how the light from the supernova fades and how its spectrum evolves over time, helping astronomers better understand the physics of such explosions.

As one of the closest supernova to occur in years, SN 2023ixf has become a major target by astronomers. This type of supernova signals the collapse and death of a star 8 to 10 times the mass of the Sun. Since the life cycle of such massive stars is not yet fully understood, this nearby supernova provides a great opportunity for astronomers to learn more.