In May 2023, an astronomer discovered an exploding star in a distant galaxy!
David W. Hoskin, Ph.D.
Can you spot the difference between these two photos of the Pinwheel Galaxy? Supernova 2023ixf appeared in 2023.
Stars might look like little dots of light to us, but they do powerful things. On May 19, 2023, an astronomer named Koichi Itagaki looked through his telescope and discovered a supernova, which is an exploding star!
This type of supernova takes place when a massive star—a star that’s much bigger than our Sun—runs out of fuel to burn and collapses. This causes a big explosion—probably bigger than anything you can even imagine. As it explodes, the star becomes as bright as 100 billion stars! This brightness can last for weeks or months.
The supernova that Itagaki discovered, which scientists are calling Supernova 2023ixf, isn’t located in our own Milky Way Galaxy. It’s in the Pinwheel Galaxy, which is 21 million light-years from Earth. Amazingly, this means that the explosion took place 21 million years ago, and it has taken this long for the light to reach us!
So, can you look up at the night sky and see the supernova? Well, no. People who have regular telescopes might be able to see a dot of light. A powerful telescope, however, has been able to capture a beautiful image of the Pinwheel Galaxy (which looks like a swirl of light) with the supernova casting its bright light outward. It’s shown at the top of this article!