Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Caroline Moore [14] discovers a rare supernova

Caroline Moore

This is remarkable.

"14-Year-Old Discovers Rare Supernova"


Terrence O'Brien

June 16th, 2009


If nine-year-olds can work for Microsoft and become feared professional gamers, why can't a 14-year-old leave her mark on the world of astronomy? Oh, wait, she can -- as proven by Caroline Moore, a student from upstate New York who discovered an exploding star that occurred in a galaxy roughly 70 million light years away.

All the way back in November, Caroline spotted the faint glow in the sky with nothing more than a low-powered telescope. Word got out and after months of monitoring at some of the most advanced installations in the world, astronomers decided that the explosion was a curiously small supernova.

This particular example was of special note because it was much less powerful than your normal supernova -- if you can call gigantic stars exploding with so much energy that their light can outshine entire galaxies "normal." Indeed, scientists believe that the explosion Caroline detected could be the weakest supernova ever recorded. Astrophysicists like Ryan Foley of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have speculated that this particular instance was an explosion that failed, perhaps only partially destroying the star. Still, the object was labeled 'SN 2008ha,' technically classing it a supernova.

"Coincidentally, the youngest person to ever discover a supernova found one of the most peculiar and interesting supernovae ever," Alex Filippenko, leader of the University of California, Berkeley supernova group, told the Space Fellowship. "This shows that no matter what your age, anyone can make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Universe."

Caroline is just the latest in a long line of amateur astronomers who have made important contributions to the understanding of our universe. Check out the gallery below for a few more ordinary people who made extraordinary discoveries.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Caroline,
I am a 55 year old astronomy buff who saw your story on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. You are AWESOME! Wow! What a great piece of work.
My daughter just graduated high school and was accepted into the US Naval Academy. That was phenomenal in itself. But to see another young person who can achieve so much at such a young age gives me great hope for our future.
I congratulate you on your find. I also hope they call it Caroline. Good luck in your future endeavors and keep up the good work.
Dan in AZ