10 year old boy discovers supernova 600 million light years away

Canadian Nathan Gray has discovered a supernova in the field of the galaxy designated PGC 61330, which lies in the constellation of Draco (the dragon). Winning the hearts and minds of boys everywhere, Nathan has taken the title from his sister, Kathryn, who was the youngest supernova discoverer back in 2010. 

The Gray kids are something else. Kathryn’s original discovery got her meetings with astronauts such as Neil Armstrong, Bill Anders (Apollo 8), Victor Gorbakto, and Jim Lovell (Apollo 8 & 13).

Nathan’s discovery has been posted on the International Astronomical Union’s site, and confirmed by US and Italian observers. Its provisional name is: PSN J18032459+7013306, and to get an official supernova designation a large telescope needs to confirm the unique supernova light signature via a spectrum.  

Image Courtesy of Dave Lane

Supernovas are rare events. The last one known to occur in our galaxy occurred several hundred years ago, before the invention of the telescope. The odds of discovery can be increased by repeatedly checking many other galaxies. A new supernova reveals itself as a bright point of light that wasn’t there the last time the galaxy was checked. Since a supernova can outshine millions of ordinary stars it is easy to spot with a modest telescope.

All this comes from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), which having been founded in 1868, is really old by Canadian standards. Nathan and Kathryn are the children of RASC member Paul Gray. Nathan made his discovery going over images taken by another RASC member, Dave Lane, who runs the Abby Ridge Observatory (ARO) in Nova Scotia.