A ten-year-old Canadian girl has become the youngest-ever person to discover a supernova.
Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, New Brunswick – along with her father Paul Gray and friend David Lane – identified a magnitude 17 supernova in galaxy UGC 3378 in the constellation of Camelopardalis.
The galaxy was imaged on New Year’s Eve, and they discovered the supernova on Monday.
A new supernova appears as a bright point of light that wasn’t there the last time a galaxy was checked. Since a supernova can outshine millions of ordinary stars, it’s easy to spot with a modest telescope, even in a distant galaxy like UGC 3378 which is about 240 million light-years away.
After spotting a new white spot in their telescope images, Kathryn and her father checked to make sure it wasn’t an asteroid or comet – and that it hadn’t already been identified as a supernova.
The discovery was then verified by Illinois-based amateur astronomer Brian Tieman and Arizona-based Canadian amateur astronomer Jack
Newton. It was then reported to the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
This is Paul Lane’s fourth supernova discovery, Gray’s seventh – and Kathryn’s first. Lane and Paul Gray have been searching for supernovas since 1995, but Kathryn became interested only recently.
She’s a little blase about her success, telling local media that she doesn’t have any desire to go into space, but would rather be a Grade 1 teacher.