The hatch between the newly-arrived SpaceX Dragon capsule and the space station was opened early this morning as the crew began today to unload food, clothes and batteries.
Astronaut Don Pettit commented on the “new car smell” and well-designed layout of the ship. They’ll reload the capsule with science equipment and send it back on its way to Earth soon. The commercial craft was designed to be re-useable; routine flights to the space station are scheduled to begin in August.
On May 17 the automated Lick Supernova Supernova Search (LOSS) discovered a new supernova in the galaxy NGC 4424 in the constellation Virgo not far from the planet Saturn. Only 18th magnitude at the time of discovery and impossibly faint to see, the star has since skyrocketed to around 12.7, making it a worthy target for amateur telescopes 6 inches and larger.
Last night it outshone the galaxy’s own nucleus, which is comprised of at least several billion stars. That gives you an idea of how brilliant this exploding star truly is. The supernova is embedded within the galaxy’s hazy disk some 17 arc seconds east of center.
Using a spectrograph, a device that breaks up a star’s light into a rainbow fingerprint of colors, astronomers have determined that 2012 cg is a Type Ia supernova. Before the explosion, the star was a white dwarf, a superdense, planet-sized object with the mass of the sun. Tiny but mighty, the white dwarf’s powerful gravity pulled material from a nearby companion star down to its surface.
When a dwarf puts on enough pounds to exceed 1.4 times the sun’s mass, it can longer support itself and collapses and self-detonates in an explosion that blasts it to bits. Lucky earthlings can witness the incredible event from the comfort of their patios.
NGC 4424 is one of many galaxies in Virgo, so take your time using the map to arrive at the right one.
Since 2012 cg was discovered early in the explosive phase, it brightened quickly and is still climbing. You can watch it change in the coming days and weeks by using the star magnitudes – direct from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) – shown in the photo above. That’s how I estimated the supernova’s magnitude at 12.7 last night May 25. For more information and photos, please stop by David Bishop’s Latest Supernovae site, the one-stop shop place for what’s shakin’ in the world of exploding stars.