Amateur Astronomer Discovers Distant Supernova While Testing a New Camera
The hero of the hour is Víctor Buso, an amateur photographer and astronomer who recently got a new camera, and wanted to test it out by taking some photos of the stars through his 16-inch telescope. In doing so, he managed to unintentionally capture an explosion in the distant spiral galaxy NGC 613, as he took the first known photos of the moment a supernova first explodes into a giant fiery ball of energy.
While this discovery happened entirely by chance, the really fantastic thing here is that Buso was competent and knowledgeable enough to recognize his own discovery. Not only did he take several different long-exposure photos of the same part of the sky, as he looked over the photos he's taken he realized that there was a faint light in his later pictures that wasn't present in the first few images.
Soon, Buso was showing off his pictures to astronomer Melina Bersten of the Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina, and scientists were clamoring to analyze his discovery in order to learn more about the moments immediately before and after a supernova bursts into flame.
Alex Filippenko, an astronomer that performed follow-up research into Buso's pictures, describes the pictures as being "like winning the cosmic lottery". According to Filippenko:
Additional analysis of the supernova, named SN 2016gkg, has revealed more information about the event. This is apparently a Type IIb supernova, which was once a particularly large star that had dispersed most of its hydrogen, much like the most distant supernova that's ever been recorded, which was also recently discovered.
#Amateur #astronomer Victor Buso is first to spot a #supernova during the first moments of eruption, a finding confirmed by Alex Filippenko (@4AstroAlex) of #UCBerkeley. A stunning example of how amateurs and professionals can work together in #astronomy! pic.twitter.com/VwcZEc8CMP— The Cosmic Companion (@CompanionCosmic) February 21, 2018
It's wonderful to know that with relatively simple equipment, an amateur scientist was able to capture pictures of what professionals have been hoping to observe for years. This is partially down to luck, but has also been helped by the fact that Buso knew that he'd spotted something unusual, allowing him to bring it to the attention of more experienced stargazers.
This all just goes to show that the right person, in the right place, with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, can change the course of scientific discovery for years to come.