"A Bright Supernova Discovered in the Nearby Galaxy NGC 5128"

(11 February 2016)

On Feb 8 2016 Peter Marples (Queensland, Australia) of the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search (BOSS) discovered a bright supernova in the well-known nearby galaxy NGC 5128, also known as Centaurus A.    Subsequent observations of this exciting event have been made by many telescopes, at CTIO on the subsequent two nights Sangeeta Malhotra and Zhenya Zheng, who were observing with the  Dark Energy camera on the Blanco 4m telescope,  took images through filters ranging from the ultraviolet (u band) to the near infrared (z and Y bands).  Except in the u band, the exposures were very short (~ one second).  Here are u and z band images of the center of the galaxy showing the supernova, which is the lower left star of the bright pair of stars.  Cen A is well known for its prominent central dust lane, and it is clear that the supernova is immersed in this, as it is very faint in blue and ultraviolet light, which is more absorbed by the dust than is redder light.    The other bright stars in the images are all nearby foreground stars in our galaxy, and it it is sobering to realize that the star adjacent to the supernova is ~ 100000 times closer to us, and the SN is ~ 10 billion times more luminous.   Some of the other “stellar” objects are in fact unresolved globular clusters in Cen A.  Just outside the dust lane many very faint stars are visible, these are luminous blue stars in Cen A.   In the near IR the luminous nucleus - the bright fuzzy object - of Cen A is prominent, while in the u band it is extincted by the dust, with the dust lanes very prominent.

Images Credit: Sangeeta Malhotra (Arizona State University) and Zhenya Zheng (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, PUC).


The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is a complex of astronomical telescopes and instruments located at 30.169 S, 70.804 W, approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters.  CTIO headquarters are located in La Serena, Chile, about 300 miles north of Santiago.

The CTIO complex is part of the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), along with the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) in Tucson, Arizona.  NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).  CTIO, as part of the AURA Observatory in Chile, operates in Chile under Chilean law, through an Agreement with the University of Chile and with the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile.

The principal telescopes on site are the 4-m Victor M. Blanco Telescope and the 4.1-m Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope.  One of the two 8-m telescopes comprising the Gemini Observatory is co-located with CTIO on AURA property in Chile, together with more than 10 other telescopes and astronomical projects.