This supernova was the first one the present author (hf) observed with his own eyes, when it appeared almost as bright as the nucleus of M96.
Our image was obtained by Norbert Stapper on May 14, 1998 at 21:53 UT with a 8-inch SC telescope, LPR filter and ST7 CCD camera at 1.86 arc seconds per pixel, under modest observing conditions. Norbert estimated the brightness of the supernova as 12.0 +/- 0.1 at that time.
Spectral investigations indicated that this supernova is of type Ia, as there is no hydrogene, but helium present in the spectrum (see e.g. Mike Richmond's Supernova Taxonomy). In case of Supernova 1998bu, this may be of particular interest with respect to the cosmic distance scale determination, as supernovae of this type are often regarded as one of the more reliable "standard candles" for determining distances of more remote galaxies, and M96 has a Cepheid distance determined by the Hubble Space Telescope. Therefore, the brightness of SN type Ia might be better "gauged" by this supernova. These investigations have been actually carried out by Nick Suntzeff and co-workers and have been submitted for publication; see preprint.
Type Ia supernovae are commonly interpreted as explosions of a White Dwarf which acquires too much mass from a companion star, so that its mass exceeds the Chandrasekhar limit of stability (about 1.4 solar masses) and finally collapses, causing a thermonuclear explosion, or as the result of a collision of two White Dwarf stars. As this process is thought to occur under very similar conditions each time, it is assumed that all type Ia supernova explosions are similar, i.e. are of similar luminosity and show similar light curves. Observational results give supplementary evidence to this assumption.
Last Modification: 23 May 1998, 10:00 MET