On May 19th, supernova hunter Koichi Itagawa discovered a new supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101). Over the next few days the supernova, designated 2023ixf, increased in brightness significantly, and I had a chance to photograph it on the evening of May 21st.

The Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) before Supernova 2023ixf

Image 2 of 2

This image was taken on 30 May 2022, about a year prior to the discovery of supernova 2023ixf.

I had previously photographed M101 about a year ago, so I dug back into my archives and found my original image so I could do a “before and after” comparison. You can see the two images for yourself above. I shot the “before” picture using my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 mm f/5.5 refractor, but the “after” image was taken through my C8 with Starizona SCT Corrector IV, so I had to do some manipulation to put them both at the same scale factor and rotation (I used the DynamicAlignment process in PixInsight).

A supernova is basically a star that has exploded. Wikipedia can tell you more than you might want to know about them. There’s also a nice writeup on Sky & Telescope’s website on this particular one. The Pinwheel Galaxy is about 21 million light years distant, meaning that the explosion we have just seen actually happened 21 million years ago. This isn’t something that we see every day.

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