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Supernova 2014J Burns Bright in Messier-82, the "Cigar Galaxy"

Oakland CA, January 30, 2014 - M 82, also known as the "Cigar Galaxy," is around 12 million light years away. Supernovae occur when a star explodes emitting a massive amount of energy in a short span of time. 2014J has been identified as a Type 1a supernova, which is the detonation of a white dwarf star that has exceeded the mass limits for a white dwarf and collapsed under its gravity. SN 2014J actually exploded about 12 million years ago, but is only visible now because of the distance its light has had to travel through space.

Type 1A supernovae are very useful tools for astronomers in determining the distance to the galaxies they explode in since, by nature, all Type 1A supernovae have the same intrinsic brightness. By measuring the apparent brightness of the supernova and comparing it to what we know the true brightness of a Type 1A supernova to be, astronomers can calculate the distance with good accuracy.

Chabot astronomers have been monitoring this latest astronomical occurrence and taking photos though the Centers 36" refracting research telescope Nellie. Astrophotographer and staff astronomer, Conrad Jung rendered a color side by side view of M82 ten years ago and M82 three days ago with SN 2014J burning brightly in the vast darkness.  Staff astronomer Gerald McKeegan says, "Although the supernova was discovered on January 21st, researchers have determined that the initial explosion occurred on January 14. For Type 1a supernovae, the luminosity ramp-up typically takes 18 to 20 days, so it should reach maximum brightness around February 2nd. Thereafter, it will gradually fade, losing about 2 magnitudes in luminosity by the end of February. If the 18-20 day luminosity ramp up profile holds true for SN 2014J, then it should be just about at maximum magnitude this coming weekend February 1st and 2nd."

Nellie will be pointed at SN 2014J for public viewing, weather permitting this weekend. Chabot Space & Science Center astronomers and trained observatory deck guides will be on the deck leading viewing activities. The observatories are open 7:30-10:30 pm both Friday and Saturday nights.

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Media Contact: Autumn King, (510) 336-7306 or AKing@ChabotSpace.org

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About Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space & Science Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit interactive science center whose mission is to inspire and educate students of all ages about Planet Earth and the Universe. Located in the Oakland hills, the Center focuses on the earth, life, physical and astronomical sciences, with a 128-year legacy of serving Bay Area communities through exhibits, public programs, school field trips, science camps, teacher training, teen development programs and community outreach; hosts 50,000 students on school field trips and over 115,000 public visitors each year; and offers over 20,000 sq ft of interactive exhibits on a variety of space and science subjects, a world-class planetarium, school classes on over 30 different science topics, hands-on science activities, state-of-the-art classrooms and labs and publicly-available research-level telescopes.

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Chabot Space & Science Center, a Smithsonian affiliate, and Bay Area Certified Green Business, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit interactive science center whose mission is to inspire and educate students of all ages about Planet Earth and the Universe. Founded in 1883, the Center is located at 10000 Skyline Blvd. just off Highway 13 in the Oakland hills. For more information, visit www.chabotspace.org.