On May 31, a bright supernova erupted in M51 -- more famously known as the "Whirlpool Galaxy" -- located approximately 25 million light-years from Earth. Amateur astronomers were the first to spot the rapidly brightening object -- bright enough to be imaged by backyard astronomers.
This is the second supernova to be observed in M51 over the past six years (and the third in 17 years), but this event is also notable in that a professional team of astronomers were alerted to the supernova's presence through social media.
In fact, through the serendipitous combination of being in the "right place at the right time" and Twitter, astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley were able to quickly grab the spectrum of light being blasted from the site of violent stellar death.
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