Supernova  2014J

Supernova 2014J as seen by NASA's Swift telescope. (NASA/Swift/P. Brown, TAMU)

Twelve million years ago, a star exploded. Today, you can see it online.

At 1 p.m. PST Thursday, the website Slooh.com will livestream a view of the newly discovered supernova 2014J from its telescope in the Canary Islands. 

Supernovas are extremely bright stellar explosions that can briefly glow brighter than an entire galaxy. This one is a Type Ia supernova, which means it used to be a white dwarf star. 

Although this supernova was recently discovered, the white dwarf exploded 12 million years ago. It took that long for the light from this dramatic event to reach us on Earth. Incredibly, although this explosion took place 12 million light-years away, it is still the closest optical supernova in 20 years, according to NASA.

Supernova 2014J lies in a cigar-shaped galaxy known as Messier 82. It was first spotted Jan. 21 by four undergrads from the University College London who were attending a telescope workshop led by Steve Fossey. The students and Fossey will all be on hand during the Slooh broadcast to talk about how they discovered the supernova, and what life has been like since they found it. 

2014J will hit its peak brightness on Sunday, but it will never be bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. To see it with a telescope, you can start looking around 7 or 8 p.m. local time between the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. (Sky and Telescope has some helpful sky charts).

Whether it's online or from behind a telescope, we wish you happy supernova viewing!

If you love the awesomeness of the night sky, follow me on Twitter for more like this.

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