"Supernova Of A Generation" Discovered

This June 9, 2005 NASA false-color picture shows the supernova remnant of Cassiopeia A. This image is made up of images taken by NASAs, Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. UPI/NASA

A supernova discovered August 24th is being called "the supernova of a generation" by astronomers, who say its (relative) closeness to Earth and early detection makes the event a rarity.

“This is a special event,” said Ken Sembach of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the Washington Post reports. “Everyone wants a piece of it.”

Telescopes around the world turned to face the supernova when astrophysicist Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory discovered the exploding star just before his lunch break, the Washington Post reports.

The supernova, which will brighten until Wednesday and Thursday, is visible just above the handle of the Big Dipper to amateur astronomers armed with binoculars or telescopes.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a telescope that hasn’t turned to it,” Nugent said, as reported by the Washington Post. 

What makes the star even more exciting for astronomers is its type 1a status. The Washington Post reports all type 1a's blaze with nearly the same brightness, allowing astronomers to use them as yardsticks for measuring cosmic distances. Their apparent brightness helps researchers determine their distance from Earth.

The last supernova to generate such buzz became visible in 1972, the Washington Post reports.

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