…continuedFinding the Next Nearby Supernova
Let's Go Get 'Em!
Before neutrinos arrive and sign the physicists' guest book, no one can predict where the next supernova will occur except that it will likely be within the Milky Way's glowing band or enfolded by one of our neighboring galaxies. We also don't know when the first glimmer of light will appear; if there's lots of interstellar smog in the way, days or even weeks could pass before the star brightens enough to punch through.
The delay between the neutrino emission and the rebounding shock's breakout through the star's photosphere should provide ample time to mobilize the world community of amateur astronomers and other users of small telescopes. And here's a new, exciting twist: if enough neutrinos are collected by enough observatories, we should know not only that a new star will arise but roughly where in the sky we should look for it!
To find the supernova as quickly as possible, a dedicated corps of searchers is needed around the world. To guarantee complete sky coverage, given the vagaries of season and weather, it's vital that hundreds, even thousands, of observers participate. There are no qualifications except patience! This effort is truly universal. If the dice roll just right, some naked-eye observer in Mongolia might spot the supernova first, while high-tech amateurs in Europe sip Cinzano and wait for darkness.
SuperNova Neutrino Early Warning System (SNEWS) will send its best-guess position of the supernova to AstroAlert, a network established by Sky & Telescope and several partner organizations. AstroAlert will echo that message to all who have registered with the service. The small-telescope community will then swing into action and send observations of any supernova candidate back via a standardized form.