Supernova Sets Record for SETI Institute’s Citizen Scientists
In an exciting breakthrough for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), the supernova SN 2023ixf has become a record breaker. This supernova, which created the neutron star companion of 56 Ursae Majoris and set the MI gas cloud in motion, was first discovered on May 19, 2023, by Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki. The discovery was quickly followed up by amateur astronomers involved in both the SETI and Unistellar’s Cosmic Cataclysms program.
The Pinwheel Galaxy, where the supernova is located, witnessed a record number of observers collecting data from this extraordinary event. Citizen scientists in the form of amateur astronomers joined forces to collect valuable data and contribute to the study of Type II supernovas. These cosmic events occur when massive stars run out of fuel for nuclear fusion and collapse under gravity.
The effort involved a total of 123 dedicated amateur astronomers, who utilized 115 telescopes to track the changing brightness of the supernova over time. This extensive data collection resulted in a detailed profile known as a light curve, which allows SETI scientists to study and analyze the behavior of SN 2023ixf.
The Cosmic Cataclysms program, a joint collaboration between the SETI Institute and Unistellar, aims to engage citizen scientists in studying and collecting data from cataclysmic and transient events such as supernovas and gamma-ray bursts. Participants in the program receive real-time alerts whenever transient events are detected, enabling rapid observation campaigns.
Excitingly, the program will soon benefit from the operations of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. This collaboration between citizen astronomers and professional astronomers will provide even more opportunities to study transient events in greater detail.
The team’s research on SN 2023ixf has recently been published in the esteemed journal The Research Notes of the AAS. Thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of citizen scientists, significant advancements have been made in our understanding of these astronomical phenomena. The Cosmic Cataclysms program and its collaboration with the SETI Institute and Unistellar continue to inspire and engage both amateur and professional astronomers alike. Monitoring of SN 2023ixf will persist until at least August 2023, further fueling the excitement surrounding this record-breaking supernova.