PASADENA, Calif. (CBS Seattle) – The sudden appearance of a supernova in a nearby galaxy has excited astronomers all over the world, reports Space.com.
The exploding star was first observed just a few days ago when a bright light suddenly appeared in Messier 82, also known as the Cigar Galaxy, about 12 million light years away from us.
Located in the constellation Ursa Major, between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, scientists believe it may become bright enough to be seen with binoculars.
Astronomers say this is a type 1a supernova, possibly caused when a white dwarf star crashes into a dying star, starting a nuclear chain reaction that releases a massive amount of energy.
They hope to study how that energy interacts with dark matter, which is believed to compose most of the universe.
And since the Hubble Space Telescope took pictures of the Cigar Galaxy before the supernova, astronomers may be able to see the star itself.
Because the brightness of type 1a supernovas are consistent, scientists can use them as “standard candles” to measure the distance and motion of other galaxies.
Edwin Hubble analyzed the light spectrum from these supernovas to determine that the universe is expanding.
One astronomer tells Space.com that this is the “Holy Grail” of supernovas.