In only three weeks since its discovery on January 21, 2014 , much has been learned about the new supernova SN 2014J in Messier 82, the “Cigar” galaxy. In addition to early confirmation based on its spectrum that it is indeed a type Ia supernova, it is now understood to be the nearest type Ia explosion to our Milky Way galaxy since 1986.
Its unique proximity alone makes SN 2014J one the most important supernova ever observed. It will impact our understanding both of the type Ia-class of supernovae and of the Universe as a whole, because our Universe’s size, age, and ultimate fate are linked intimately to observations of type Ia supernovae, and because the precision with which they can be applied to estimate Universal-scale distances depends crucially on the nearest examples. SN 2014J is very likely to remain the nearest anchor-point in the type Ia supernovae-based distance scale for decades to come.
“Being the nearest supernova of this kind, SN 2014J will help us to better calibrate the expansion of the Universe,” said Adam Riess , co-leader of the Supernova H0 for Equation of State (SHOES) project, and co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.