60-Second Space

Preadolescent Astronomer Spots Supernova

Ten-year-old Nathan Gray of Nova Scotia officially becomes the youngest person ever to identify a new supernova. Clara Moskowitz reports

Not many people can boast of discovering a new celestial wonder, let alone doing so before puberty. But 10-year-old Nathan Gray of Nova Scotia has done just that: Gray is officially the youngest person ever to identify a new supernova.

Gray, with the help of his father, used the local Abbey Ridge Observatory to spot the exploding star on October 30th. His find was confirmed as a bona fide supernova last week by Italian astronomers. They took spectroscopic measurements that showed the newfound object had the wavelength signatures of a supernova.

Supernovas happen when giant stars run out of fuel for nuclear fusion and collapse in on themselves. The resulting giant explosions are so bright they are visible from distant galaxies.

Nathan Gray found his supernova in the constellation of Draco, where he noticed a new bright star that hadn't been there in older images.

Nathan comes from a space-minded family. In fact, he stole his new title from his older sister, Kathryn Aurora Gray, who had held the record for youngest person to discover a supernova. Looks like the family has multiple young stars.

—Clara Moskowitz

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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