PESSTO Survey Views Spiral Galaxy Messier 74

PESSTO Survey Image of Messier 74

PESSTO survey image of Messier 74. Credit: ESO/PESSTO/S. Smartt

This new image from the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects (PRESSTO) shows spiral galaxy Messier 74 and its new supernova, SN2013ej.

ESO’s PESSTO survey has captured this view of Messier 74, a stunning spiral galaxy with well-defined whirling arms. However, the real subject of this image is the galaxy’s brilliant new addition from late July 2013: a Type II supernova named SN2013ej that is visible as the brightest star at the bottom left of the image.

Such supernovae occur when the core of a massive star collapses due to its own gravity at the end of its life. This collapse results in a massive explosion that ejects material far into space. The resulting detonation can be more brilliant than the entire galaxy that hosts it and can be visible to observers for weeks, or even months.

PESSTO (Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects) is designed to study objects that appear briefly in the night sky, such as supernovae. It does this by utilizing a number of instruments on the NTT (New Technology Telescope), located at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. This new picture of SN2013ej was obtained using the NTT during the course of this survey.

SN2013ej is the third supernova to have been observed in Messier 74 since the turn of the millennium, the other two being SN 2002ap and SN 2003gd. It was first reported on 25 July 2013 by the KAIT telescope team in California, and the first “precovery image” was taken by amateur astronomer Christina Feliciano, who used the public access SLOOH Space Camera to look at the region in the days and hours immediately before the explosion.

Messier 74, in the constellation of Pisces (The Fish), is one of the most difficult Messier objects for amateur astronomers to spot due to its low surface brightness, but SN2013ej should still be visible to careful amateur astronomers over the next few weeks as a faint and fading star.

Links: PESSTO (the “Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects”)


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