Stargazing runs in Nathan Gray’s family.
The 10-year-old boy from Nova Scotia, Canada, discovered a 600 million-year-old supernova on Oct. 30 -- beating his sister by 33 days as the youngest person to find a possible stellar explosion, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation reports.
"It kind of looks like a blinking star," Nathan said about the supernova he spotted in the galaxy PGC 61330, which lies in the constellation Draco.
Nathan made the discovery while looking at astronomical images taken by Dave Lane, who runs the Abbey Ridge Observatory (ARO) in Nova Scotia. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada confirmed Gray’s discovery, but astronomers with the International Astronomical Union say they will need to use a larger telescope to make the finding official.
“Given no motion, large distance from the galactic plane (i.e., it’s not likely a nova), and several optical confirmations, as well as its very close angular proximity to a faint galaxy, it is a supernova at any reasonable certainty,” Lane said in a news release.
Gray’s discovery may stem from sibling rivalry.
Two years ago, Gray’s older sister became the youngest person ever to find a supernova. Kathryn Aurora Gray, who was 10 years old at the time, spotted a supernova dubbed 2010lt from images taken by Lane on New Year’s Eve in the galaxy UGC 3378 in the constellation of Camelopardalis.
“I’m really excited. It feels really good,” Kathryn told the Toronto Star about the discovery at the time. Her father, an amateur astronomer himself, helped her spot the star. Using old files, he helped his daughter learn how to detect a possible exploding star. He then gave her 52 new images. She found the supernova on the fourth.
“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.
While supernovas can be spotted with modest telescopes by looking for bright points of light in galaxies that weren’t there the last time they were checked, they are considered rare events, according to the RASC. The last one to occur in our galaxy took place hundreds of years ago, before the telescope was invented.
As for Nathan Gray, he remains committed to finding more supernovas.
“Sometimes you can get your hopes up,” Nathan told the Canadian Press, describing how he had been searching the skies for eight months before spotting the supernova. “But I’m kind of really excited knowing that I have found something and I can find maybe more.”