While you may have rung in the New Year watching fireworks, 10-year-old Kathryn Aurora Gray celebrated by witnessing a different kind of explosion in the sky. Over the weekend, the 5th grader from New Brunswick, Canada became the youngest person ever to discover a supernova.
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada announced Kathryn’s find on Monday. She made the discovery with father Paul Gray and family friend David Lane, both astronomy aficionados who were co-credited with the discovery.
The amateur astronomer told the Vancouver Sun, “I was very excited to find one, especially this quick.”
A supernova is the death of a massive star, one much bigger than the Sun. This explosion emits an extremely bright light that lasts over several weeks. Fun fact: A supernova can radiate as much energy in its short visible period that our Sun is expected to emit over its entire lifespan.
Kathryn’s discovery is a Magnitude 17 supernova in the galaxy UGC 3378 in the constellation Cameloparalis. The supernova is about 240 million light years away, meaning the explosion discovered by 10-year-old Gray happened roughly 240 million years ago.
The Gray family is not unfamiliar to supernovae. This is Paul Gray’s seventh supernova discovery. His first was when he was 22, making him the youngest person at the time to discover a supernova. Knowing how chance-based making these discoveries can be, Gray is incredibly impressed by his daughter’s first-time luck.
"It's like she got struck by lightning," Gray said. "It's truly amazing. I'd like to get her to pick some lottery numbers for me."
To put it scientific terms, stellar work, Kathryn! You’re out of this world.
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