Most ten-year-olds don’t have the patience to sift through star images for thousands of hours. But Kathryn Aurora Gray was on a mission: She wanted to become the youngest person to discover a supernova.
And luckily for her, Kathryn’s work didn’t take thousands of hours–she discovered an exploded star about fifteen minutes after starting her career as an amateur astronomer. After looking through four of the 52 pictures provided by family friend and astronomer David Lane, she saw it, her father explains to the Canadian Star:
“Kathryn pointed to the screen and said: ‘Is this one?’ I said ‘yup, that looks pretty good’,” said Paul Gray, describing his daughter’s find.
The images that Kathryn studied to find the supernova were taken by Lane on New Year’s Eve at his “backyard astronomical observatory” in Nova Scotia, Canada. On January 2nd, Kathryn and her father sat down to analyze Lane’s images using a computer program that overlays pictures of the sky from different dates. If one of the stars in the frame brightens dramatically, it appears to “blink” when switching back and forth between the pictures. (See an animation here.)
While we know what it looks like when a star explodes into a luminous supernova, here’s a chance to discover what one sounds like–sorta. Scientists have translates a supernova’s electromagnetic waves into waves of sound; and when there is sound, there is music. Enter the Grateful Dead.
The band’s famed percussionist Mickey Hart is working on a musical project to “sonify” the universe–taking sounds collected by scientists from supernovae and other astronomical phenomena and using them in his new album “Rhythms of the Universe.” To anyone who has ever heard one of the Grateful Dead’s extended “drums and space” jams, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.