An exploding star has suddenly appeared in the night sky, dazzling astronomers who haven't seen a new supernova so close to our solar system in more than 20 years.
In just the last few days, a the supernova emerged as a bright light in Messier 82 - also known as the Cigar Galaxy - about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. The supernova, which one astronomer described as a potential "Holy Grail" for scientists, was first discovered by students at the University College London.
Positioned between the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, the new supernova should be easy for skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere to spot through a telescope. It may even brighten enough to be visible through a small pair of binoculars, said astronomer Brad Tucker, of the Australian National University and the University of California at Berkeley. Beyond creating a skywatching spectacle, the cosmic event may also afford astronomers a rare opportunity to study an object that might help them understand dark energy.
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