Monday, January 10, 2011

Youngest person to discover a supernova: World record

Kathryn Aurora Gray, 10, spotted an exploding star while looking at images of the night sky sent to her by an astronomer friend of the family - setting the world record for the Youngest person to discover a supernova.
"I'm really excited. It feels really good," Gray told the Toronto Star.

The find, formally named Supernova 2010lt, was announced by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

The previous Guinness world record for the Youngest person to discover a supernova was set by Caroline Moore, a 14-year-old budding astronomer in Warwick, New York.

Guinness World Records also recognized
The youngest person to have visited both geographical poles is Jonathan Silverman (USA) (b. 13 June 1990), who reached the North Pole on 25 July 1999 and the South Pole on 10 January 2002, aged 11 years 211 days.

Supernova 2010lt is a magnitude-17 supernova which resides within galaxy UGC 3378 which is 240 million light-years away. Supernovas are so bright compared to normal stars they can be found using modest telescopes.

Kathryn's father, Paul Gray, is an amateur astronomer and was staring at the computer with his daughter when she spotted the supernova.

"She pointed at the spot," said Paul. "She goes, 'What is that? Is that one?' I'm thinking, 'That's quite possible.'"

"A supernova is a star at the end of its life," said Kathryn. "It's actually a star blowing up, ripping itself to pieces."

The images were taken through a telescope in the backyard observatory of astronomer David Lane.

Lane is a friend of the Gray family who lives near Halifax and noted Kathryn's enthusiasm when she once visited his observatory.

"She basically won the jackpot or the lottery that night," said Lane.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has confirmed the discovery and says the supernova was found in a galaxy 240 light-years from Earth.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) through Deborah Thompson was very proud of the achievement of the 10-year old Canadian girl.

She said that it is 'fantastic that someone so young would be passionate about astronomy'. "What an incredible discovery. We're all very excited." Ms. Thompson added.


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