The Pinwheel Galaxy (M 101) is pictured as supernova PTF11kly heads towards peak brightness. Astronomers have discovered the closest supernova of its kind in 25 years, the flare of a star self-destructing a mere 21 million light years from Earth and soon visible to amateur skywatchers.
The supernova is expected to reach its peak some time between September 9 and 12. During this period, it will be possible to see it through binoculars or a small telescope – if the viewing location is away from light pollution and the sky is clear.
To find the Pinwheel galaxy M 101, where the PTF11kly supernova is happening, look North-West for the Ursa Major constellation – also known as the Big Dipper.
Look at the ‘handle’ of the Big Dipper (pictured above) and imagine a line between the second and third stars. The blueish-white supernova is just above and to the left of this line.