A long Time Ago – In a Galaxy Not So far Away…

Two-frame animation before/after SN 2023ixf exploded.
Supernova SN 2023ixf in M101 is visible after May 19, 2023. This image taken on 5/22/23. 30 frames, 2-minute subs, 1600 iso.
M101 image from 7/26/22. 22 frames, 2-minute subs, 1600 iso.

Only 21 million light years away, that is…21 million years ago – all was well until it wasn’t. One day brought on SN 2023ixf – a supernova explosion in the Pinwheel Galaxy – M101. We humans are just seeing it now. M101 is right in our backyard in cosmic terms. Still…21 million light years?!

This supernova was discovered around May 19, 2023 and is visible as a star that wasn’t there the day before. On cosmic time scales a one-day outburst is something rare. M101 is one of the most photogenic of all the galaxies we see from Earth, and I happened to take my shot at it in July 2022 and then again on May 22, 2023 after hearing of the discovery of SN 2023ixf.

May 22 was a fantastically beautiful night here in the Adirondack park, with cool clear conditions for sky gazing, and no bugs! So I was able to get out there just a few days after the supernova appeared and take a series of 2-minute exposures with my trusty little Canon T5i DSLR camera.

I mimicked the exposure and conditions of the July 2022 shot as best I could. I processed the recent images and reprocessed the 2022 images to create this simple animation. The two shot are composed of stacks of these two-minute exposures: 22 and then 30 frames respectively, with the most recent 30 being of higher quality than those from last year. I’ve done my best to scale and process the two images showing before/after shots of the super nova.

It was a lot of trouble to show a tiny white dot some 21 million light years away (roughly 1.23 x 1020 miles). But imagine the show for inhabitants of M101, and pity those of that particular star system that exploded some 21 million years ago. To us – a tiny white dot. To them…the end of existence!

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