Astrophotography by Anthony Ayiomamitis

Supernovae - SN2012aw

Supernovae represent the violent explosions of massive stars which have reached the end of their life-cycle. These massive explosions where the bulk of a star's material is ejected into space and the interstellar medium are characterized with luminosities which easily can exceed that of the host galaxy for a brief period of a few weeks or even months. This ejection of material including heavy elements is both vital and critical for new generations of stars and exoplanets.

Supernovae are classified into one of two primary types. White dwarfs which gain matter via accretion have their cores collapse once they approach the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.38 solar masses, thus yielding a Type Ia supernova. Accretion of matter can be accomplished by a variety of means including via a close binary star companion or a merger with another white dwarf. In contrast, type Ib and Ic involve large stars which have exhausted their available fuel and collapse due to gravity. Type II supernovae involve much more massive stars (at least nine solar masses) where the nuclear fusion follows a steady path from lighter to progressively heavier elements (such as hydrogen to helium which is then converted to carbon etc) and until nuclear fusion is no longer possible at the core due to the iron and nickel that has been accumulated, thus leading to a huge core collapse and an ensuing stellar explosion.

Spectroscopy has also played a key role in identifying the type of supernova one observes and, in fact, now forms the basis for their classification. More specifically, type Ia supernovae are characterized without any hydrogen emission lines in their spectra and in contrast to type II which exhibit strong hydrogen emission lines. Furthermore, type I are further subdivided on the basis of the presence of a silicon line (615nm, type Ia), a helium line (type Ib) or neither one (type Ic) in their spectra.

Many supernovae leave behind them spectacular gas clouds and stellar remnants (neutrinos) which cover multiple full moons in width across the sky. Regrettably, for residents of the northern hemisphere, only four supernova remnants (SNR) are visible and, more specifically, the Crab Nebula (M1) in Taurus, the massive Veil complex (NGC 6960, 6974, 6979, 6992, 6995) in Cygnus, the Jellyfish Nebula (IC 433) in Gemini and Simeis 147 (aka Shajn 147, Sh 2-240) also in Taurus. The most recognized supernova remnant is perhaps the Crab nebula in Taurus which is believed to have exploded in 1054 AD as documented by Chinese astronomers of the time whereas Simeis 147 is especially dim and represents one of the faintest objects in the sky.

Note: Using AIP4Win V2.4 and differential photometry, the magnitude estimate for SN2012aw is 13.32 + 0.004 using GSC 849:49 (mag 12.5) as the comparison star and GSC 849:186 (mag 12.6) as the check star. For the CBAT announcement, click here. SN2012aw represents the first supernova discovery in M95.

Image Details
Supernova SN2012aw in Leo
Imaging Details

RA / Dec:
10h 43m 53.76s /
+11 40' 17.9"


Host Galaxy:



Discovery Date:

Mar 20, 2012
22:55 - 23:45 UT+2

Athens, Greece

AP 305/f3.8 Riccardi-Honders

Lum :  45 min (15 x 03 min)
Red :  N/A
Green :  N/A
Blue :  N/A
Binning :  1x1 (Lum),  1x1 (RGB)

Image Scale:
1.21" per pixel

Ambient : + 10.0 C
CCD Chip : - 25.0 C

CCDSoft V5.00.201
CCDStack V1.6.0.5
Photoshop CS2