Jun 7, 2023

Gemini North back on sky with dazzling image of supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy

Posted by in categories: cosmology, physics

The Gemini North telescope, one half of the International Gemini Observatory operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, has returned from a seven-month hiatus literally with a bang, as it has captured the spectacular aftermath of a supernova, a massive star that exploded in the large, face-on, spiral Pinwheel Galaxy (Messier 101). The supernova, named SN 2023ixf (lower left), was discovered on May 19 by amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki.

Since its discovery, observers around the globe have pointed their telescopes toward Messier 101 to get a look at the burst of light. Over the coming months, Gemini North will allow astronomers to study how the light from the fades and how its spectrum evolves over time, helping astronomers better understand the physics of such explosions.

The appearance of SN 2023ixf is rather serendipitous for the Gemini North telescope, which is back to observing with its primary mirror repaired and recoated after suffering damage in late 2022. The damage was limited to a small region outside of the light-collecting area of the mirror. Nevertheless, the repairs were carefully planned and completed to ensure that Gemini North could safely return to normal operations. This process lasted approximately seven months and in May 2023 the mirror was recoated and reinstalled, and the control systems were powered up and tested.

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