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VLT Captures Supernova In Messier 100

ESO PR Photo 08b/06 is a comparison between two images of Messier 100, taken in March 2002 with the VIMOS instrument on Melipal (VLT) and in February 2006 with FORS1 on Kueyen (VLT). The difference in colours comes from the different filters used. The supernova SN 2006X is clearly present in the FORS1 image as the bright object in the middle, just above the lower main spiral arm. It is not seen in the VIMOS image.
by Staff Writers
Cerro Paranal, Chile (SPX) Feb 27, 2006
Thought to be similar to what the Milky Way looks like, astronomers call Messier 100 a grand design spiral galaxy that presents an intricate structure, with a bright core and two prominent arms, showing numerous young and hot massive stars, as well as extremely hot knots. Two smaller arms are also seen starting from the inner part and reaching towards the larger spiral arms.

The galaxy, located 60 million light-years away, has a diameter of about 120,000 light-years, compared with the Milky Way's 100,000.

Astronomers Dietrich Badde and Ferdinando Patat used the FORS1 multi-mode instrument on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to study the newly found supernova SN 2006X. Colleagues Lifan Wang of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, and Craig Wheeler of the University of Texas at Austin, assisted in the observations.

SN 2006X was independently discovered on Feb. 4 by Japanese amateur astronomer Shoji Suzuki and Italian astronomer Marco Migliardi. The 24th supernova discovered so far in 2006, it shone on the date of discovery at magnitude 17, meaning it was 1,000 times fainter than the galaxy's overall light. The team established it as a Type-Ia supernova, observed before it reached its maximum brightness, intensifying by a factor 25 in about two weeks.

Because SN 2006X became so bright, and because it is located inside Messier 100, which is a heavily studied galaxy, the ESO team thinks it could prove an important milestone in the study of Type Ia supernovae - objects used to measure the expansion of the universe, because they all exhibit about the same intrinsic luminosity.

Messier 100 is considered one of the most prolific galaxies as far as supernovae are concerned. Since 1900, four others have been discovered among its stars: SN 1901B, SN 1914A, SN 1959E, and SN 1979C. Recent observations with ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory have shown that SN 1979C is still as bright in X-ray light as it was 25 years ago, while in visible light, SN 1979C has since faded by a factor 250. SN 1979C is a Type II supernova and is the result of the explosion of a star that was 18 times more massive than the Sun.

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Space Telescope Gets Swift Fix On Galaxy Blowing Up
Greenbelt, Md. (SPX) Feb 25, 2006
Satellites and ground-based telescopes around the globe are now studying in all wavelengths the unusual cosmic explosion discovered by NASA's Swift spacecraft a week ago. The event - which scientists think is a supernova just beginning - is expected to reach peak brightness in a few days, and could even become visible to amateur-sized telescopes in the northern hemisphere.

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