Saturday, April 9, 2011

10 Year old begins supernova hunting career, 01.10.11

Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredricton, New Brunswick thought she was just in for another night of star gazing with her family and astronomy-enthusiast friend. Little did she know she was about to become the youngest recorded discoverer of a supernova, an exploding star.

The supernova, in galaxy UGC 3378, was located in the constellation Camelopardalis, located not too far away from the North Star. The galaxy UGC 3378 is approximately 240 million light years away. Gray discovered the supernova on January 2 using a telescope belonging to a friend of the family, David Lane. The group had taken photographs through the telescope on New Years Eve, and upon closer inspection of the photographs on January 2, Gray discovered the supernova. Her father, Paul, himself a discoverer of no less than six supernovas, passed the information on to be verified by the proper authorities. The International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams has finalized Gray’s discovery.

Image credit: David Lane.
Supernovas, the rather violent death of stars as they explode, are considered rare events and can be difficult to spot, as they present themselves merely as bright points of light that were not previously there. They can last for several days, possibly even weeks, and then their light fades from view, leaving their own unique pattern in the night sky that is only visible with high-powered telescopes. Supernovas, however, can be seen with relatively light-powered telescopes, but take an extremely good sense of familiarity with the night sky (or at least that particular patch of night sky) to spot.

Despite her keen observation, Gray has not been allowed to officially name the supernova. The IAU has deemed it simply as Supernova 2010lt.


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