In addition, to ensure the object was not an instrumental defect, a second telescope was aimed toward Messier 82 to confirm that the new star was real.
One of Fossey's students, Tom Wright, later commented that, "One minute we're eating pizza then five minutes later we've helped to discover a supernova. I couldn't believe it. It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place."
A supernova is, for all intents and purposes, a star that has suddenly burst apart. The greater part of the star's mass is converted instantly into radiant energy and the resultant explosion can be equal to the light of 100 billion normal stars.
Messier 82 is roughly 12 million light-years away, so the star in question did not erupt on Jan. 21, but in reality the explosion actually took place approximately 12 million years ago.
Galaxy M82 is a popular deep-sky object for amateur observers and researchers, appearing in telescopes as a cigar-shaped smear of light; hence the moniker, "Cigar Galaxy." Burnham's Celestial Handbook describes it as spindle-shaped."