June 6, 2011 at 1:48 PM ET
A new supernova has been observed in the nearby Whirlpool Galaxy, located 26 million light-years away, and astronomers are looking for your images of the stellar explosion.
The first hint of the supernova came on May 31 when French amateur astronomer Amédée Riou noticed a previously absent bright star in M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. It was subsequently observed by additional amateurs in France, Germany and Pennsylvania, according to Sky and Telescope.
It was also detected with the Palomar Transient Factory, a fully automated, wide-field survey for events such as supernovae.
Astronomers around the world are looking through their images of M51 for additional observations of the supernova and they want your images too.
"Collaboration with amateurs is very important to us and, in this case, it might help us pinpoint the exact time of the explosion."
Send any photos of the Whirlpool Galaxy taken between May 30 and June 2 to email@example.com. If the image is used for scientific publication, contributors will receive credit.
Studies of the event so far indicate that it is a Type II supernova – the explosion of a single massive star whose core abruptly collapsed.
Supernovae are thought to appear about once a century in any given galaxy, but the last to occur in M51 was in 2005. Scientists suspect the high occurrence of supernova in the Whirlpool Galaxy is due to its interaction with another nearby galaxy, according to the Weizmann Institute.
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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).