How are supernovae discovered? (Intermediate)

When and how was a supernovae discovered? The reason for my question is I am studying it for my astronomy class and I am doing a project but I need to get all information. This is okay with my professor. Thanks for your help.

To observers of the night sky, supernova just look like bright stars that don't appear on any star charts or that appear where a dim star was before. Some times objects which move (like planets or asteroids) can fool people into thinking they have discovered a supernova (we have even recieved emails at curious from people asking if they might have discovered supernova!), and they are very rare events so discovering one would be very unlikely. Never-the-less, amateur astronomers do find relatively nearby supernovae on a regular basis and provide valuable astronomical information by monitoring them.

Here is a webpage of recently discovered supernova which can still be seen in the night sky (usually only with a telescope). On this site is also very brief information about the discovery.

Here is information on how amateur astronomers can discover supernova (also requires some luck!)

More distant supernovae are of particular interest to astronomers as they can be used to find the distances to distant galaxies and help us learn about cosmology. Supernova that far away can only be found by very large telescopes and so usually aren't found by amateurs. Here is an article about a very distant supernova which was found in December 1998.

This page was last updated June 28, 2015.

About the Author

Karen Masters

Karen Masters

Karen was a graduate student at Cornell from 2000-2005. She went on to work as a researcher in galaxy redshift surveys at Harvard University, and is now on the Faculty at the University of Portsmouth back in her home country of the UK. Her research lately has focused on using the morphology of galaxies to give clues to their formation and evolution. She is the Project Scientist for the Galaxy Zoo project.

Twitter:  @KarenLMasters

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