A magnitude 17 supernova was discovered on January 2 in New Brunswick, Canada, but more astounding than the discovery itself is who discovered it: 10-year-old Kathryn Gray. According to BBC News, she is the youngest person to have discovered a supernova.
The supernova, dubbed Supernova 2010lt, was discovered in galaxy UGC3378, which is approximately 240 million light years away. It is located in the constellation of Camelopardalis.
Kathryn utilized the help of her father, Paul Gray, to ensure that she had actually found a new supernova. He helped her to both rule out asteroids and check the list of current known supernovas. They took the discovery to a local astronomer, Dave Lane, who then verified it and officially registered it.
"It's fantastic that someone so young would be passionate about astronomy. What an incredible discovery. We're all very excited," said Deborah Thompson of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).
A supernova, which is a rare occurrence, is a stellar explosion that indicates the violent death of stars several times the size of the Sun. According to the RASC, supernovas are particularly interesting because they manufacture most of the chemical elements that went into the creation of Earth and other planets. Distant supernovas can also be used to estimate the size and age of our universe.
According to CBC News, the last supernova in our galaxy occurred several hundred years ago, but was never seen, as it took place before the invention of the telescope.
As supernovas outshine the other millions of ordinary stars, they can be seen easily with a modest telescope, even in distant galaxies. One simply needs to check previous images taken of the same location to see if there have been any changes. Kathyrn did just this with images previously taken by her father.