5 Jan 2011

Canadian 10-year-old discovers Supernova

7:05 am on 5 January 2011

A girl in Canada has become the youngest person to discover a supernova - an exploding star which can briefly outshine a whole galaxy.

Kathryn Gray, 10, of New Brunswick was studying images taken at an amateur observatory which had been sent to her father. She spotted the rare event on Sunday.

Supernovas are stellar explosions that mark the violent deaths of stars several times bigger than the Sun.

The supernova was discovered in the galaxy UGC 3378, about 240 million light years away, in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

"I'm really excited. It feels really good," Ms Gray told the Star newspaper.

Kathryn's father, Paul Gray, himself an amateur astronomer, helped her make the discovery by taking the steps to rule out asteroids and checking the list of current known supernovas.

Looking for supernovas requires going through old images of star fields and comparing them to new pictures.

"Kathryn pointed to the screen and said: 'Is this one?' I said yup, that looks pretty good," Mr Gray told the newspaper.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says the discovery has since verified. The new supernova is called Supernova 2010lt.

The BBC reports the last supernova in our galaxy occurred several hundred years ago.