Surprisingly little of the universe is visible to us when we incline our heads to the sky. Only about 6,000 stars are visible to the naked eye from Earth, and only about 2,000 can be seen from any one spot. With binoculars the number of stars you can see from a single location rises to about 50,000, and with a small two-inch telescope it leaps to 300,000.
With a sixteen-inch telescope, such as Evans uses, you begin to count not in stars but in galaxies. From his deck, Evans supposes he can see between 50,000 and 100,000 galaxies, each containing tens of billions of stars. These are of course respectable numbers, but even with so much to take in, supernovae are extremely rare.
A star can burn for billions of years, but it dies just once and quickly, and only a few dying stars explode. Most expire quietly, like a campfire at dawn. In a typical galaxy, consisting of a hundred billion stars, a supernova will occur on average once every two or three hundred years.
Finding a supernova therefore was a little bit like standing on the observation platform of the Empire State Building with a telescope and searching windows around Manhattan in the hope of finding, let us say, someone lighting a twenty-first-birthday cake.