The closest cosmic explosion to Earth in the past 10 years has become a record breaker for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SET) Institute.
The supernova, named (SN) 2023ixf, was first discovered on May 19, 2023 by Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki. An hour after this demonstration, amateur astronomers participate in SETI and Unistellar’s Cosmic Cataclysm program.
Many observers, including citizen scientists in the form of amateur astronomers, gathered to collect data from a supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy, a spiral galaxy located about 21 million light-years from Earth.
Using the data, scientists can better understand the nature of this class of supernovae, known as type II, cosmic explosions that occur when massive stars run out of fuel for nuclear fusion and cannot protect themselves from gravitational collapse.
Related: What is a supernova?
“It’s really incredible what this citizen science network can do,” said SETI Institute researcher Lauren Sgro. said in a statement. “This was the closest supernova of the last decade, and observers took full advantage of the special opportunity. They rushed to the target as soon as possible and kept observing, which allowed us to witness the full potential of this program.”
123 dedicated amateur astronomers made 252 observations using 115 telescopes to see how the light from the supernova changed over time, first seeing its increasing brightness and then gradually dimming. This allowed SETI scientists to construct a profile for the supernova, which astronomers call a light curve, which measures its brightness over time.
(SN) The story is not over for 2023ixf. The supernova is not expected to be visible until August 2023, though amateur astronomers in the Cosmic Cataclysm Program will continue to monitor its progress.
Harnessing the power of amateur astronomers
The Cosmic Cataclysm Science Program is a joint initiative between the Seti Institute and Unistellar, funded by the Richard Lounsberry Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The program allows citizen scientist astronomers to study and collect fast-changing or “transient” events such as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts from cataclysmic events.
Participants receive real-time alerts when they see fleeting events, resulting in a rapid start to monitoring campaigns seen for (SN) 2023ixf. By observing the brightening and subsequent dimming of catastrophic events, volunteers help scientists glean vital details about the material behind these violent and powerful celestial events and their effects on the surrounding gas and dust known as interstellar material.
Vera C. in Chile the following year. The program will receive a major boost when the Rubin Observatory begins operations, allowing a unistellar network of citizen astronomers to study transient events with other astronomers and professional astronomers.
The team’s research was published in the journal Research Notes of AAS.