First school observations of the supernova in M82

On January 21st, a group of university students from University College London, and their lecturer Dr Steve Fossey took an image of the nearby starburst galaxy M82 and discovered that a new 'star' had appeared in the galaxy. What they were seeing was a supernova, the result of a white dwarf star exploding after pulling material from a companion star. The astronomical world went into overdrive, with requests for images immediately being made so that astronomers can study this exciting event which is one of the nearest that has happened over the past few decades.

As soon as we heard about the supernova at the Faulkes Telescope Project, we sent out an email to all our users to ask for images of M82 to be taken - more information on the science behind supernova and why they interest astronomers so much can be found here ( but there are also lots of things that students in schools can do with the images and data. 

Activities for schools

1. Since M82 is a beautiful target to image anyway, regardless of whether a star has exploded in it, we have lots of images of this galaxy taken with the Faulkes Telescopes before the supernova went off. Students can download images of M82 before and after the explosion (from and make a short animation in the free and easy-to-use software package, SalsaJ, of the supernova going off.**

2. We have requested separate BV and R images of M82 be taken with the Faulkes Telescopes, so schools can also make their own colour images of this galaxy, complete with supernova, again using the free software package SalsaJ. Below is such an example of this, as processed by Lycee Xavier Marmier in France - a fine example of what can be done with 3 images fairly quickly. 


3. If enough schools image the supernova in M82 then a lightcurve can be produced (again using SalsaJ) and how the supernova fades with time can be measured. If you are interested in trying out this activity then we have an introductory exercise on our resources site here ( which will help you get acquainted with the process. 

A supernova explosion going off in a nearby galaxy is a great chance for students to carry out some real research and help astronomers - just what is needed to help excite and enthuse students in Science - thank you Universe for such a great opportunity!

 For instructions on how to carry out any of the activities mentioned above, please download our guide to SalsaJ here: SalsaJv2_guide.pdf

 **For reference images of M82 in B, V and R filters before the supernova went off, please contact Sarah Roberts at the Faulkes Telescope Project (many thanks to Richard Miles of the British Astronomical Association for these). **