Students Spaced Out!

UCL students in groundbreaking ‘fluke’ Supernova discovery

astronomy supernova ucl

Four UCL Students have uncovered one of the closest supernovas to Earth in recent years… by accident.

A team of students and staff were amazed when they located, by chance, the exploding star in nearby galaxy Messier 82, around 12 million light-years away.

 

It's in there somewhere

It’s in there somewhere

Student Tom Wright said: “One minute we’re eating pizza then five minutes later we’ve helped to discover a supernova”.

Pizzas may well be delicious, but the group will be thanking their lucky stars that they left their Italian snacks to take a cheeky gander at the sky.

Only intended as a quick 10 minute telescope workshop, the exercise ended in a scramble to alert worldwide astronomers to confirm the discovery. With cloud closing in and the patch of clear sky shrinking, Dr. Steve Fossey noticed the ‘star’, and after closer inspection moved at lightning speed to contact fellow experts.

UCL student Matt Wilde logs the observations in the observatory logbook on the night of the discovery

Sources close to the foursome suggest they are over the moon with their discovery, which, in terms of proximity to earth, is almost unparalleled in recent decades.

Guy Pollack, who worked alongside Tom, Matthew Wilde and Ben Cooke, said “It was a surreal and exciting experience taking images of the unidentified object as Steve ran around the observatory verifying the result. I’m very chuffed to have helped in the discovery of the M 82 Supernova.”

With most of us regarding being on time for our 9 o’clock lectures as a success, it really seems the sky’s the limit for this talented bunch.