Sep 3, 2011; 4:18 PM ET
Over the next few week or so, we will have a rare treat…seeing a supernova with a binocular or small telescope. On thing to keep in mind, this supernova is not actually occurring right now, it happened many, many years ago but we are just seeing it now because it is light years away. A light year, as its name implies, is how far light travels in a year in space.
This space map below is courtesy of a favorite astronomy site of mine, EarthSky.org. This site is downright terrific and was the inspiration for this blog, and has graciously allowed me to use many skymaps in previous blogs. This site is an absolutely fantastic source for all sorts of information about the field of science in general.
A couple of hints about seeing the supernova are found below.
Supernova 2011fe by astronomers is located near the Big Dipper pattern in our skies which can be found in the northwestern sky just after sunset.
The Big Dipper, for those who do not know, has seven bright stars in a dipper pattern, hence its name.
You want to find the last two stars in the handle of the Dipper. Draw a triangle on the sky, using these two stars to mark two points of the triangle. The supernova will be located at the third point of your imaginary triangle.
The supernova will look just like a star, like a pinpoint of light. If your sky isn’t dark enough, both supernova and a galaxy located very nearby will be tough to spot. You might see a wispy patch behind the supernova. That’s the galaxy mentioned above! You’ll need a small telescope to see the galaxy well. Obviously, the darker the sky with little light pollution the better the viewing will be.
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