Monday, May 25, 2020


"In space, no one can hear you scream." -Alien (1979)

It's germaine for human chomping, chest bursting outer space aliens when they are rampaging through the corridors of your spaceship.  I wonder if it holds true when your star goes supernova?

I know.  Not quite the same thing.  In the movie, there is lots of blood and gore.  And, admittedly, lots of localized screaming.  But outside of the USCSS Nostromo,  in the vacuum of space, it was pretty quiet.

They should've taken Ripley's advice to "nuke it from orbit."

Maybe that is what happened in Messier object M61.  It had a star go supernova on May 6th and no one heard a peep.  No screaming. 

Well, the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) sky survey only detected the new supernova on May 6th.  It actually happened a really, really long time ago.  The light from the event is just now getting here.

Imagine that the astronomers at ZTF were just sitting there looking through their telescopes at M61 and then, all of a sudden, a star exploded into brightness.  Right before their very eyes.

No screaming.  Not even a simple "pop," let alone a more boisterous "KA-BOOM."

This is M61, as imaged by me this weekend.  It was nicely placed high in my southwest sky, in the constellation Virgo.

M61.  No screaming.  No KA-BOOM.
Virgo is a fun constellation to explore.  Tons of dim galaxies at which to peer.  I have spent hours exploring Virgo.  Even in this image, there is more than just M61.

Just for fun, I uploaded the image to to run a plate solve and this is what it found.

M61 and neighbors.

So, where is the supernova?  Which one?  It turns out that M61 has had 8 supernova since people have been paying attention to it.  The latest is named "SN 2020jfo" and I've annotated in this image.

M61 with annotated supernova.
A zoomed-in version is here.

Cropped M61 with annotated supernova.
Now knowing that M61 has frequent supernova events, I'm going to spend more time looking for them myself.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


The Clear Sky Chart for my location shows a hint of a possibility for some astronomy tonight.  If the forecast is correct, this will be the first time in, oh so long!

A Chance for Tonight or Tomorrow Morning?
Since it has been so long since I've been able to bring the Cat out, I thought I'd better set everything up to make sure that it all plays nicely together.  I'm looking at you, "Windows 10 software updates ..."

The Astro Cat, Astro Table, and the Astro Chair
I'm thankful for the wheeled platforms!

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