astroengine writes "It's simple. You see news pop up on the web about a supernova and you tweet about it. But in the case of last week's M51 (the "Whirlpool Galaxy") 14-magnitude bright stellar explosion, one tweet was picked up by University of California, Berkeley, astronomers... who just so happened to be enjoying some observing time on one of Keck Observatory's monster telescopes. Although the weather wasn't perfect, the Berkeley team were able to quickly observe a spectrum from the M51 brightening to quickly confirm that it was a Type II supernova — the core collapse of a massive star, some 8-times the mass of the sun.
"This is the first time that we've been alerted via a tweet," Alex Filippenko, lead astronomer of the UC Berkeley team, told Discovery News. "We've been alerted many times via email, and in a sense, I was alerted via an email message, but it was from a colleague who was alerted through a tweet."
"To my knowledge, that is unprecedented.""
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