Skygazing Spectacular: Supernova Marathon

Stars from our galaxy supernova about twice every century. However, supernovae that are visible from Earth are extremely rare — with less than 10 recorded in human history.

A few impressive supernovae have documented during the course of recorded history. SN 1054 was reported by Chinese astronomers when it happened (as the name suggests) in July of 1054. It was so bright that it was visible with the naked eye, even during the daytime! It remained visible to the human eye at night all the way through April of 1056, nearly 2 years later.

The remnants of SN 1054 are still visible today, and are known by the more whimsical name of the “Crab Nebula,” which gets it’s name from a drawing of the nebula by astronomer William Parsons, which somewhat resembles a crab. This nebula has long been of important scientific interest – it was the first object to be recognized as related to a supernova event, and contains the “Crab Pulsar” (a spinning neutron star) which is the first pulsar to be related to a supernova as well.

The most recently discovered supernova in the Milky Way is Kepler’s Supernova, witnessed in 1604 and named for German astronomer Johannes Kepler. This supernova was also visible unaided by telescope, and was visible during the day for over 3 weeks. It’s nebula was discovered in 1941, but is much dimmer than the Crab Nebula.

Will there by another Supernova for us to witness during our lifetime? It’s unlikely, but possible! Betelgeuse, Earth’s nearest red supergiant is likely to go supernova within the next 100,000 years.

However, recent dimming events have caused some to speculate that this event may come sooner than we thought — potentially even this century! Though not the most likely theory, there’s still much we don’t know about supernovae, so we’ll just have to wait and see. If Betelgeuse did supernova, it would shine as brightly as the half moon, and be visible for over 3 months! A marathon event indeed!

Now it’s time to compete against the clock! Starting at 10:00 AM ET on 5/29, you will have 24 hours to complete one or more cells. Bonus & cell renaming information can be found in your in-game notifications.