Observer’s Challenge – Spot a Supernova

Although Betelgeuse will probably not go supernova for quite some time yet – there is a chance to spot a supernova in a remote galaxy over the next few nights.

It’s located in NGC 4636 which is a magnitude 9.4 elliptical galaxy in Virgo, some 16.3 MPc distant from us.

SN 2020ue discovery image by Koichi Itagaki
On discovery by Koichi Itagaki SN 2020ue was around magnitude 15, but it is expected to brighten in the coming days. This supernova is type 1a and a previous type 1a supernova in that same galaxy reached magnitude 11 in 1939 – so we should expect it to brighten to the same level assuming similar extinction from dust in the host galaxy.

The discovery image shows the supernova well separated from the galaxy, and if it does reach mag 11 should be an easy target for imagers, and also visible to visual observers.

The supernova should be bright enough to record a low-resolution spectrum with entry lever spectroscope, or using a Star Analyser. And measurements of the brightness are also useful.

Virgo rises late, however, so it might be best to get up early and view in the hours before dawn.

And if you want a further challenge, try to look up SN 2020oi, a type 1c supernova which lies in face on spiral galaxy M100. Although at discovery it was of magnitude 14.6 and it has been brightening, it’s not clear if it will brighten much more. It is located quite close to the core of the galaxy so could be hard to spot.

SN 2020oi is the seventh recorded supernova in M100. M100 lies in Coma Berenices, so also only available after midnight at this time of year.

If you have any successful observations, please port to your Members’ Page, and send to the Deep Sky and Variable Star sections

Finder chart from

Cover image from Sloan Digital Sky Survey

The British Astronomical Association supports amateur astronomers around the UK and the rest of the world. Find out more about the BAA or join us.