Seeing a Supernova Could Be the Best Part of Labor Day Weekend

After all the boozing and barbecuing on America day off from labor, take a sec to look up. What you'll hopefully see is A supernova burning bright more than 21 million light years away.


The type 1a supernova is actually an exploding White Dwarf that scientists discovered last in the Pinwheel Galaxy, and it's the youngest of its kind ever to be discovered. You can find it at home on the handle of the Big Dipper with just a pair of binocs or a simple telescope. It'll burn it's brightest on September 9th, but you won't care as much by then. You'll be working. [Wired]

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This is a very big deal. The intrinsic brightness of this type of supernova is well known, making it an important "standard candle" in judging cosmic distances. Observing one so early in its development is unprecedented. Such observations allow us, among other things, to refine the Hubble constant that describes the expansion rate of the universe (presently calculated at about 72 Kilometers per Second per MegaParsec). This in turn refines our knowledge of the size of the universe, it's ultimate fate and the whole bizzare business about Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Well done again Mt. Palomar!