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Uncovering the Secrets of the Great Supernova

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: Peter Nugent and the Palomar Transient Factory

Credit: Peter Nugent and the Palomar Transient Factory

A once-in-a-lifetime nearby stellar explosion now unfolding in a neighboring galaxy has astronomers at the W. M. Keck Observatory scrambling to ask questions that can’t be answered at any other ground-based telescope in the world. The first big question: What causes this pivotally important type of stellar cataclysm?

Observing this spectacular supernova, dubbed PTF11kly, began on August 24, with the detection of the explosion in the nearby Pinwheel Galaxy, a.k.a. M101, by the automated Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey. That survey is designed to detect short-lived astronomical events as they happen.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/secrets_of_supernova/