New data has found that the crash of two white dwarf stars not only caused the nearest supernova in 25 years, but appear to be the prime cause for these types of supernovae.
The data also says that there are no white dwarf primary systems in the Milky Way that are candidates to go supernova in this way. Thus, we can all sleep easy tonight!
The nearest supernova in almost a quarter century is now visible using binoculars.
Astronomers have spotted the closest supernovae in almost 25 years, only 21 million light years away.
The supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, occurred in the Pinwheel Galaxy, located in the “Big Dipper,” otherwise known as the Ursa Major constellation. It was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey, which is designed to observe and uncover astronomical events as they happen. “We caught this supernova very soon after explosion. PTF 11kly is getting brighter by the minute. It’s already 20 times brighter than it was yesterday,” said Peter Nugent, the senior scientist at Berkeley Lab who first spotted the supernova. Nugent is also an adjunct professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley. “Observing PTF 11kly unfold should be a wild ride. It is an instant cosmic classic.”
Astronomers expect the supernova to continue to brighten over the next two weeks, when it should be visible to anyone using binoculars.