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Excited astronomers said on Wednesday they had for the first time caught a supernova on camera just as it was exploding, and they may now learn how to spot others.
By luck, they spotted a burst of X-rays while looking at another part of a distant galaxy, and managed to turn a variety of telescopes in the right direction just in time.
Soderberg's team looked across space and time to witness the death throes of supernova 2008D, found in one arm of the galaxy NGC 2770, 88 million light-years from Earth.
In real time, they are seeing events that occurred 88 million years ago -- but in Earth time they are just occurring and the astronomers can watch the supernova as if it really were exploding just now.