Seeing a Supernova With Your Own Eyes: A Guide


Starting this weekend, you will be able to see a cosmic phenomenon without the aid of a mountaintop telescope or highly politicized university grant. Researchers at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California found a white dwarf star about 1.4 times the mass of our sun at the beginnings of a supernova. It is located in the Pinwheel Galaxy only 21 million light years away–most supernovas are in galaxies 1 billion light years away–which means you will be able to see it with a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope. It will get brighter and brighter until September 9th. After the jump, a list of steps on how to see this really big ball of gas explode.

1) Go somewhere with little light pollution. Under your covers doesn’t work, as you will need to be able to see the sky. Still cozy, though.

2) Locate the Big Dipper. Because it is late summer, the constellation will be high in the sky. It will be the seven extremely bright stars that look like a giant ladle. People have recognized the Big Dipper for literally as long as humanity has been around, so if you can’t find it please contact the Molecular and Evolutionary Biology department at Oxford University to inform them that you mark the beginning of our species’ genetic devolution.

3) Once you locate the Big Dipper, take the last two stars of the handle and form an equilateral triangle with them heading north. The third point you make is where the supernova is.

4) Take out your binoculars or telescope and look at that place in the sky and start feeling extremely small.

5) Become disinterested in your work and start writing poetry as a means to make sense of the expansive nothingness that surrounds you.

6) Meet a beautiful girl in her early twenties who gets you and your poetry.

7) Buy a van.

8) Drive cross-country to escape your concerned friends and family. Take the girl with you.

9) Pick up hitchhikers and convince them that we are merely mutating bacteria hurtling through space until the random hand of time decides to wipe our Petri dish clean.

10) Gain a following.

11) Get annoyed at how readily people adhere to your every word. Deem them phonies. By the transitive property, you realize that you are a phony too.

12) Dump the girl and drive home in time for the NFL season to start.

13) Get ready for some football!

How to See a Supernova This Weekend From Your Backyard [Wired]