Want to zoom in on a supernova?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

supernova blast
I don’t even know the name of that color! This supernova contained the most recent black hole formed in the Milky Way, as of February of 2013.

When a star has much more mass than its core can handle, it explodes into a supernova. These explosions can burn as much energy in one instance as our own Sun is expected to burn in its lifetime, and shine brighter than an entire galaxy! The displays are simply stunning, and according to researchers from Ohio State University, you only have to wait 50 years to see one for yourself in our very own Milky Way galaxy.

Well, the chances of seeing one with the naked eye are low, but with a specialized telescope, it’s totally possible. “Every few days, we have the chance to observe supernovae happening outside of our galaxy,” said study author Scott Adams, a doctoral student at Ohio State. “But there’s only so much you can learn from those, whereas a galactic supernova would show us so much more.”

The thing is, our galaxy contains soot-like materials that absorb light and make it difficult to see the beautiful disaster, so having one occur in our own galaxy would be the sight of a lifetime. In fact, researchers are 100% certain that the display will be visible… if you have a telescope. Sadly, that number drops down all the way to 20-50% depending where you are on Earth, for amateurs anyway.

I have no doubt there are several professionals who have their high-tech equipment actively scanning the sky as we speak. If they can detect the potential supernova from the moment of it’s birth (or should I say death?), they can learn more about stellar explosion than we’ve ever dared to dream.“We see all these stars go supernova in other galaxies, and we don’t fully understand how it happens. We think we know, we say we know, but that’s not actually 100 percent true,” said Christopher Kochanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State and the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Observational Cosmology. “Today, technologies have advanced to the point that we can learn enormously more about supernovae if we can catch the next one in our galaxy and study it with all our available tools.”

Images courtesy of NASA.