Thermonuclear supernovae signal the sudden and explosive destruction of a white-dwarf star. They are key to calibrating the expansion and acceleration of the cosmos; yet they occur rarely amongst the galaxies of our immediate cosmic neighbourhood. Serendipitously, in January 2014 one such supernova, the closest in a generation, was discovered in the nearby galaxy Messier 82 (the `Cigar Galaxy’) from UCL’s teaching observatory in north-west London, triggering a world-wide effort to secure critical follow-up data.
The Flamsteed were delighted to welcome Dr Steve Fossey for our first lecture of the 2015/16 season. Steve told the story of that night and its aftermath: the race to report, and recent results that promise fresh insight into the nature of these cosmologically significant events.
Here are a few pictures from the evening: