If you haven’t seen the new supernova in the night sky, don’t worry—it should last another year or more. Scientists anticipate it to steadily diminish until it’s no longer visible.
Supernova hunter Koichi Itagaki from Yamagata, Japan discovered the new supernova on May 19. The California Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) verified the supernova the next day.
Astronomers predict the supernova to be visible for some time. “We expect the brightness to sort of hold steady for weeks, if not months,” Liverpool John Moores Observatory astronomer Daniel Perley told Space.com. “It’ll shine.”
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Scientists anticipate it to degrade until it’s invisible.
SN 2023ixf is the brightest and biggest supernova in a decade. A modest telescope or high-magnification binoculars can reveal it. It’s a popular target for amateur and professional astronomers in Messier 101 (M101), the Pinwheel Galaxy.
Perley thinks it will stay bright “quite awhile, maybe even up to a couple of months.” The supernova will dim. “Over the next year, or two, three years, it’ll finally fade to low detectability again,” Perley added.
Texas A&M Supernova researcher Peter Brown says most regular type II supernova, like SN 2023ixf, have a consistent brightness for 100 days before dimming.
Brown said the latest explosion is unusual. SN 2023ixf has remained bright in the ultraviolet spectrum since discovery, overwhelming Swift satellite telescope data.
Brown added “since this one is different, it might fade” in the future. “But it could remain bright enough for an amateur astronomer with a good telescope to see for months.”
Supernovas light when star material interacts with the surroundings. If it interacts with denser clouds or shells around the fading star, SN 2023ixf may briefly brighten.
The supernova may light in additional wavelengths after it is no longer visible. Brown said huge telescopes and space observatories like NASA’s Hubble and James Webb may examine the explosion for years.
Still, don’t wait another year to take your telescope outside. The supernova may last longer than astronomers think.
“It could still surprise us,” Perley added. “We’re unsure.”