How to spot the new brightest supernova in the sky

A star in its explosive death throes lights up a corner of the night sky, and it's bright enough to spot on your own.


Supernova candidate AT 2017eaw blinks in this 2011 vs 2017 image comparison of galaxy NGC 6946

Gianluca Masi / Virtual Telescope Project

There's a new exploding star in the night sky that's bright enough for anyone to check out with an amateur telescope.

A new supernova tediously named "2017 eaw" was first spotted by Utah amateur astronomer Patrick Wiggins on May 14. According to Sky and Telescope, he came to the conclusion he had likely spotted a dying star when he compared his observations with those of the same galaxy on May 12 that showed no sign of the new, bright point of light.

It's likely a type II supernova, which means it is a large star that collapsed in on itself, causing a massive explosion that can be seen across space.

The new cosmic blast is in the spiral galaxy NGC 6946 in the constellation Cygnus. The galaxy is sometimes referred to as a "fireworks galaxy" because it has hosted no fewer than nine supernovas over the last century or so. Wiggins' new discovery would be the 10th.

The amateur astronomer watched the supernova for an entire hour to make sure it wasn't really an asteroid passing by. Later, Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope Project confirmed it was not an asteroid and is most likely a new supernova.

2017 eaw is currently the brightest supernova in the night sky and will remain so for a little while. You can try to spot it for yourself using a six-inch or larger telescope. Failing that, the Virtual Telescope Project will be showing the supernova live online on Friday starting at 2:30 p.m. PT.