Supernova Girl

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, (STScI/AURA) and J. Green

Do you remember what you were doing when you were ten years old? Perhaps working through the complexities of long division or playing kickball at recess. Whatever kept you occupied, we think it’s safe to say you were not discovering a supernova, an intensely energetic explosion that occurs at the end of a star’s lifetime. Unless of course, you happen to be Kathryn Gray. Ten-year-old Gray is the youngest person to make such a discovery. With her father, an amateur astronomer, at her side she spotted the supernova 240 million light years away on New Year’s Eve. To find what NASA has deemed to be “one of the most energetic explosive events known,” astronomers use a computer program that compares different nighttime images of the sky taken from the same location. If there are any changes, there’s a good chance it’s a supernova. Most fully-grown astronomers search for thousands of hours before they discover the star. For Gray, it took fifteen minutes.

It’s quite impressive, awesome, and heartwarming to find such a young person interested in the sciences (and making history along the way). We at GLIMPSE are thrilled to see appreciators—at any age—of the art + science of seeing.

Allison Nonko

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