Girl, 10, becomes youngest to discover supernova
Kathryn Aurora Gray spotted the new supernova on this image taken on New Year's Eve.
January 4th, 2011
11:04 AM ET

Girl, 10, becomes youngest to discover supernova

A 10-year-old Canadian girl will head back to school this month with a good case for some extra credit in science: She became the youngest person to discover a supernova during the holiday break.

Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, New Brunswick, spotted the exploding star, dubbed supernova 2010lt, on Monday from an image taken on New Year’s Eve by a telescope belonging to amateur astronomer David Lane in Stillwater Lake, Nova Scotia. The exploding star is in the galaxy UGC 3378 in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) says Kathryn is the youngest person ever to discover a supernova.

"I was very excited to find one. Especially this quick," Kathryn said of her discovery, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun.

Kathryn began her search for a supernova after she learned last year that a 14-year-old has discovered one of the exploding stars, her father, amateur astronomer Paul Gray, told the Toronto Star.

He shares credit for the find – his seventh – with Lane – his fourth, according to the RASC. The find was verified by amateur astronomers in Illinois and Arizona, the society said in a press release.

Supernovas are massive explosions that signal the death of stars many times the size of our sun, according to the RASC. Astronomers look for them by repeatedly scanning images of distant galaxies like UGC 3378, which is 240 million light years from Earth. That means the star explosion seen by the 10-year-old happened 240 million years ago.

Paul Gray told the Toronto Star his daughter found the supernova while checking the fourth of 52 images Lane had emailed to him.

“Kathryn pointed to the screen and said: ‘Is this one?’ I said yup, that looks pretty good,” Paul Gray told the Star.

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Filed under: Space
soundoff (391 Responses)
  1. John D Lamb

    Comments please.

    January 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jonathan

    I thought CNN was a reporter of facts. 240 million years? Prove it.

    January 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denny

      Light-year distances are pretty easily obtainable through parallax measurements, and given the spectra of the supernova it's true luminosity is known vs how bright it appears to us, which also indicates the distance. CNN doesn't need to prove anything, you just need to understand basic astronomy.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. guy

    Cool! Well done young lady!!!!!!!

    January 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Smoosh

    What a great find for this young child, however what's the difference between that little gray fuzzy thing and all the other little gray fuzzy things in the picture?

    January 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • starlight_22

      What CNN does not show is that she had to flip through various shots of the same area taken over time. The dot they have labeled as the supernova would have been missing in earlier shots. While flipping through images sounds like she wasn't doing much, I was doing the same thing as an undergrad in astronomy for a project (unrelated to supernova). It works as a first approach to find candidates for certain objects.

      January 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Crash2Parties

    Rough paraphrasing and summary of the story, but I might point out that back in the 1930's a man named Percival Lowell spent a considerable fortune building an observatory and having tens of thousands of photos taken in his hunt for the minor planet Pluto. Died without succeeding. Years later a night custodian/technician named Clyde Tombaugh was going over tens of thousands of new photos and found something that did not match the photo taken a week or two earlier. He did not take the photos and he did not even own the telescope. Just found the anomaly in the pictures and followed up on it.

    Btw, he *did* go back through the archives to see if it was on the plates from the original survey taken while Lowell was still alive. Pluto was there, but they'd missed it.

    January 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crash2Parties

      (btw, that was not intended to belittle Tombaough's achievement; he was amazingly dedicated and more than just a professional astronomer).

      January 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lol

    Lol @Lakota

    January 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Me

    Wow. My 2 1/2 year old looks through the telescope and asks "What's that?" all the time. Maybe that was a super Nova too! OMG STOP THE PRESS! *rolls eyes*

    January 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gapkid

    Now if she could only reinstate Pluto as a planet...

    January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pluto is a planet!

      Pluto is a planet! That's what I was taught in school so that's the way it is! If some ja@ck@$$ scientist told you grass is now considered purple would you go with it? I say heck no! Poor Pluto! Getting the shaft after all these years!

      "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas." – Pizzas are awesome and so is Pluto!!!

      Pluto Pride!

      January 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crash2Parties

      Pluto is still a planet. Just because a tiny handful of stuffed shirts at the IAU said so doesn't make it so. Consider the odd new rules they cobbled to back up their "decision". The favorite in our household is the "clears it's own orbit". Tell that to Jupiter.

      My six year old daughter did better than the IAU and ended up with Major Planets and Minor Planets. Must orbit a Star. Must be roughly spherical. Must not be a moon (binaries okay, determine by location of center of mass). Major verses Minor is a matter of size with an arbitrary cutoff between Mercury and Eris. Genius kids are awesome.

      January 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denny

      Crash2: How is what the IAU did any different than what you propose? Planet vs dwarf planet is what they used for names instead of major and minor. Pluto is a dwarf planet.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. the_dude

    Over the holiday break I put two turds in front of my son. He was able to tell that one turd smelled worse than the other after I told him the turds were different and one would smell worse than the other. He discovered a new turd.

    January 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    I love it - you say "she just pointed to a spot" - go back and read the article. She discovered the difference (the presence of the exploding star) on the 4th of 52 images. But, more importantly, at a time when academic achievement in the West is slipping moment-by-the moment to European and Far East performance, let's celebrate the fact that a 10 year old is not only interested in science, but contributing to it. Why is it every time someone else does something, we have to trash and abuse them, rather than appreciating them for their achievement and, maybe, motivating ourselves to do more. But, Americans have become a total "give me for no effort" society – so many of the responses I read above do not surprise me.

    January 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • bluebird

      More like she noticed a slight difference in one of the smudges on the paper I'd hardly callw hat she did a step in the right direction for academic achievement. That's what is so ridiculous about this story. It will take a lot more to achieve real scientifc knowledge than what this kid did. Let's hope she furthers her studies.

      January 5, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. Middleschooler!

    It's great she found it! Think she can help discover where all the socks go?

    January 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • PP10304 Mike

      And Jimmy Hoffa, too.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • fast eddie

      so thats the cancer cell they been talking about ?

      January 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOL

      If that's not cheating nothing is. I bet you give that girl a telescope and say go out back and play she'd be 80 years old and still looking for one.

      January 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      It doesn't count if he found it and she just happened to be sitting there.

      January 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Totoro0101

      No no no, you see that IS where socks go, when dryers spin they cause a wormhole to open up, but since it is such a very little spin, it's a very little wormhole. Consequently the only things that can fit through are socks. They then travel through space and time until they reach their destination. Apparently a great number of people lost their socks that day, the star burned up hot and bright, and boom! No more socks 😉

      Congratulations to Kathryn for spotting their socky demise, may they rest in cottony peace (or is it pieces?), sniffle...

      January 4, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      That's awesome.. It's kinda scary too that nobody would have probably seen it except her. What about asteroids and stuff?

      January 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will S

      On a related note, in three years she'll understand what a supernova is.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deej59

      I realize it's much more fun to blast a kid, but listen up for a moment. Go to supernova.galaxyzoo.org and sign up, then you'll have thousands of images to look through whenever you feel like it. Odds are it'll just look like a lot of white dots to you, but if you spend some time at it you can pick up the knack for recognizing supernovae. There are far too many robotically snapped pics to be gone over by scientists any time this century, so they've opened the images up to the public to get some help. If you still can't picture it, Google "Galaxy Zoo". It was the first project in the Zooniverse series (there are eight now), and in two and a half years it has generated 20 scientific papers, each discovery having been made by a "citizen scientist". What this girl did was pretty cool, but not unheard of. So before you go assuming it's all a big hoax, go see what it's really about, please.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bulwark Exterminating

      That is fantastic to see such motivation and determination from one so young. Setting a goal to find a super nova and become the youngest ever... Amazing story.

      January 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChucklinginMS

      Nice find for the young, budding scientist.

      On a lighter note...When you find Jimmy Hoffa's extra, missing socks, you will also find all the dirt from holes that dogs dig. Anyone ever noticed how the dirt from a dog's hole never seems to refill it? Maybe it goes to the same place as those extra socks...

      January 14, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. MttsWife67

    I think thats inredible. A ten yr. old. Wow....Smart kid!

    January 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Outstanding! When I hear of things like this, it heartens me. Perhaps we might YET avoid a nation of burger flippers and have some engineers and scientists.
      Keep up the interest and good work, kid!

      January 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • foodle

      @wzrd1: You did read the part where she's Canadian, right?

      January 4, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brandon

    This is great. Seeing and hearing about young kids this interested in science gives me a good feeling. Congratulations to Kathryn!

    January 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MattsWife67

    I'm still in awe! Incredible!

    January 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MattsWife67

    I'm still in awe!

    January 4, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • republicans rock

      I wish I was there to give her a present

      January 4, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
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