New supernova thrills astronomers and skywatchers around the world (photos)

an animation showing a bright star explosion appearing in a spiral galaxy
Long Island, New York-based astrophotographer Steven Bellavia produced this composite animation of the Pinwheel Galaxy using an image taken on April 21 and comparing it to another image taken on May 21, which clearly shows the supernova appearing. (Image credit: Steven Bellavia)

Astronomers and amateurs alike are excited about a new star explosion visible in small telescopes.

The new supernova popped into visibility on May 19 in the Pinwheel Galaxy, (also designated as Messier 101, or M101). The galaxy  is visible in a small telescope under dark-sky conditions, as long as you use a wide field of view and a low-power eyepiece

Supernova hunter Koichi Itagaki, from Yamagata, Japan, first spotted the explosion, which was confirmed the following day (May 20) by telescopes of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in California.

Related: This new supernova is the closest to Earth in a decade. It's visible in the night sky right now.


A Celestron telescope on a white background

(Image credit: Celestron)

Looking for a telescope to observe the Pinwheel Galaxy other awesome sights in the night sky? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 as the top pick in our best beginner's telescope guide

Long-exposure photographs make the supernova easier to spot. The supernova was formed when a star, much more massive than our own sun, ran out of fuel to burn in its core. Since the core could not support the mass of the star any more, the star collapsed on itself and created a gigantic explosion.

Several observers shared their excitement on Twitter, often aided by imagery or data as they talked about the supernova with the public.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California joined several amateur astronomers in providing footage of the supernova, which is easily visible in amateur telescopes. 

Professional astronomers shared data or alerted the community about the rare event, which may be a little hard to spot if you're not used to looking for such things.

"Just note that this galaxy and supernova aren't the easiest objects to spot in the sky," writer Joe Rao wrote in a recent story

"Part of the reason for its visibility being problematic is its apparent size: M101 is roughly one-third the apparent diameter of the moon; thus its overall brightness is 'spread out' to such a degree that the contrast between it and the background sky makes it somewhat difficult to perceive."

If you want to look at M101 or any other deep-sky objects, our guides to the best telescopes and best binoculars are a great place to start. We can also help you take pictures of this new supernova with our guides to how to photograph the moon, as well as the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.

Several folks commented on how smoke from huge wildfires in Canada's west affected observations, but the supernova was nevertheless still visible through the haze.

Some folks used the opportunity to comment on activities by SpaceX and its billionaire CEO, Elon Musk

SpaceX has sent more than 4,000 Starlink broadband spacecraft into orbit to date, and the company has been criticized for the satellites' effect on amateur astronomy as they cross in front of objects.

Editor's Note: If you manage to take a photo of M101 and/or this new supernova and would like to share it with's readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: