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An exceptionally close supernova (a stellar explosion, see Section 13.2, p. 337) discovered on January 21, 2014, has become the focus of observatories around the globe, as well as a suite of orbiting spacecraft. The blast, designated SN 2014J, occurred in the bright galaxy M82 and lies about 12 million light-years away. This makes it the nearest optical supernova in two decades and potentially the closest type Ia supernova to occur during the life of currently operating space missions.

Credit and copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona.

SN 2014J was first spotted as an unfamiliar source in the otherwise familiar galaxy by teaching fellow Steve Fossey and astronomy workshop students Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde, and Guy Pollack at the University College London Observatory on the evening of January 21.

To capitalize on this unusual event, astronomers have planned observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and Swift missions.

Links: Further information from the NASA press release; hi-res image from APOD January 24, 2014.

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