A team co-led by Andy Howell, adjunct professor of physics at UCSB and staff scientist at the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, discovered the closest supernova of its type in the last 25 years, within hours of its explosion, in August. The supernova, dubbed SN 2011fe (or PTF 11kly), was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey using automated computers to detect astronomical phenomena. The finding is rare—in the past hundred years, only four such supernovae have been this close, and none have been caught so early. The supernova has been studied with dozens of telescopes around the globe, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Byrne Observatory Telescope at UCSB's Sedgwick Reserve.
UCSB Scientists, Telescopes Help Discover ‘Once in a Generation' Supernova (UCSB Office of Public Affairs) 8/25/11
Brand-New Supernova Spotted Within Hours, Will Be the Most-Studied Star Explosion Ever (Popular Science) 8/26/11
Supernova Erupts in M101 (Sky & Telescope) 8/25/11
Closest supernova in 25 years a 'cosmic classic' (MSNBC) 8/26/11
Astronomy Picture of the Day (NASA) 8/26/11