Liverpool Telescope observations of SN 2011fe (= PTF11kly)

The Liverpool Telescope obtained what is likely to be the earliest spectrum of a type Ia supernova ever. The supernova was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory on August 24 and was observed that same night with the Liverpool Telescope. The data show that there is a significant amount of Carbon and Oxygen. Furthermore we could show that the radius of the progenitor star was less than 10% the radius of the Sun.
Constraints on the progenitor show that it was faint. Overall, this event strongly supports the favoured model for type Ia explosions where a compact stars, a white dwarf, "swallows" matter from a companion until it can't take it anymore and explodes.
This is the nearest type Ia SN in a generation and it has received a lot of attention from professional and amateurs astronomers (at peak it was visible with binoculars) as well as from the general public (see an example here).
The paper is now published (Nugent et al. 2011, Nature, 480, 344). The main conclusion is that the progenitor is very likely to be a white dwarf star, or at least it is very small and very faint (see the LJMU press release and an article in the Guardian).