Imaging Supernovae - Summer 2011 at Cabrillo Observatory

At the close of the semester, I found on the list of recent supernovae that a new, fairly bright type Ia supernova - SN2011by - had been discovered April 26 in NGC 3972 in the Big Dipper - high overhead this time of year. I thought it would make a fine excuse to spend time in a quiet, scientific meditation of these amazing objects which are so essential to the creation of life and the discoveries of modern cosmology. One of my outstanding Astro 4 students, Erin, was game to join me and learn the ways of a modern observatory. Then, just before our get-together, an even brighter and more spectacular supernova was discovered June 1 in the iconic spiral galaxy M51 - "The Whirlpool Galaxy". This, SN2011bh, was a type II supernova (massive star with an imploding iron core) and should show an interesting contrast with the light curve of a SN Ia, so we planned to image both over a series of evenings.

June 6

Erin took the shots, and I polished them in CCDOPS, Registax, and Photoshop CS2. 5x5min image stack with the 12" scope and ST2000xcm, with a first quarter moon high in the sky. Clear conditions. Erin got the hang of the computer commands fairly quickly. SN2011dh is at ~11 o'clock from the nucleus, in the outermost spiral arm.

NGC 3972 and the SN Ia immediately right of the nucleus. 2x5min stack before fog came in to terminate the photography.