This is so cool. A supernova has just exploded in M95… well, four days ago (3-4-2012), but now we can see photos of it. M95 is a spiral galaxy about 38 million light years away from us. The supernova is a type II. Just think about how much energy is being released. The star is extremely far away, 38 million light years is 2.23382993 × 1020 miles. It really is a magnificent distance and yet that supernova, a single star, is by far the brightest thing around.
As a cool aside, even though I say it “just” exploded, it is important to note that while we are seeing this star go boom right now it actually happened 38 million years ago. That star died a very long time in the past and the light we are seeing now has zipping through space since the end of the Eocene Epoch.
It really is quite a pleasure to get to watch a supernova appear. It’s been on my list of must-see events for a long time, though I am still hoping that Betelgeuse will blow in my lifetime, because when it goes it will probably outshine the moon in the night sky.
The video below is actually an animation of several images stitched together. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do.
Update 3-23-2012: I posted another video below that describes, in detail, everything that has happened with this star.