New supernova spotted in nearby galaxy

A bright flash to the right of the core of the Cigar galaxy (shown) has been confirmed as a type Ia supernova.

Ernest Guido, Nick Howes, Martino Nicolini/iTelescope, New Mexico

The galaxy M82 has given off a brilliant flash, which astronomers have confirmed as a type Ia supernova.

M82, or the Cigar galaxy, is 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. Because the galaxy is relatively close and the stellar explosion was spotted quickly, follow-up observations may help astronomers better understand the characteristics of type Ia supernovas.

Astronomers use this type of stellar explosion to measure the distance to galaxies much farther away and to track the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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