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Cataclysmic supernova 'in earth's backyard' visible tonight

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supernovaA SUPERNOVA billed as 'the closest to earth astronomers have found in the last quarter century' will be at its brightest on Friday.


The once-in-100-years phenomenon will be best viewed through binoculars or a small telescope, but the exploding star is described as being 'in earth's backyard.'

The supernova is part of the Pinwheel Galaxy 'just' 21 million light years from earth. Most supernovae are  around one billion light years away.

Astronomers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley discovered the dying star only hours after it went supernova using a specialized survey telescope at the Palomar Observatory in southern California.

Peter Nugent, senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley, said: “A type 1A supernova is the cataclysmic destruction of a carbon oxygen white dwarf – a star only about 1.4 times the mass of our sun.

“By this weekend you will be able to see it. It reaches peak brightness on September 9.”

The Pinwheel Galaxy can be found just to the left of the last two stars in the The Plough (aka the Big Dipper).

Watchers are advised to stay away from street lights for maximum visibility.

See video for more tips on viewing the supernova.

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