Gemini North back in action in spectacular fashion after mirror repair, recoating

After repairing and recoating the Gemini North Observatory’s 8-metre (26-foot) primary mirror, astronomers focused on the Pinwheel galaxy, aka M101, and were delighted to see a sharply focused image of SN 2023ixf, a Type II supernova discovered in one of the galaxy’s spiral arms on 19 May by a Japanese astronomer. Located 21 million light years from Earth near the handle of the Big Dipper, SN 2023ixf is the closest observed supernova in the last five years. The Gemini North image is a welcome demonstration that the NOIRLab-operated observatory is back in action after standing down for seven months to repair slight damage to the primary mirror’s outer edge while being moved prior to recoating.

The Pinwheel galaxy, known to amateur astronomers as M101, as imaged by the Gemini North telescope showing a brilliant supernova blazing away in a spiral arm extending to the left. Image: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

“That the mirror repair was successful is evidenced in this stunning image of Messier 101 and SN 2023ixf,” NOIRLab said in a statement. “Not only is Gemini North a powerful discovery tool, with its 8-metre mirror and exceptional spectroscopic capabilities, but it’s also located at a prime vantage point in the northern hemisphere, on Maunakea in Hawai‘i, giving it an exceptional view of Messier 101.”