At left, a false color image of the supernova in the galaxy M82 made using several imaging filters. Right, another image taken with Lind Hall’s telescope, M82 is the patch of light — made from its tens of billions of stars — running from the upper left of the images toward the lower right. The supernova, dubbed SN 2014J, is marked. All the other stars in the image are foreground stars in our own galaxy and are 10,000 times closer to us than SN 2014J,so they appear as bright as SN 2014J, but are actually billions of times dimmer.
In the observatory above Lind Hall, Ernest Skousen hunkered down with his coffee, cold-weather gear and the telescope’s computer late in the evening Jan. 31.
“We were ready for the all-nighter,” he said.
Skousen, along with Hans Berghoff, another physics major at Central Washington University, and physics professor Michael Braunstein were trying to find a supernova in a galaxy more than 11 million light years away.
Astronomy students in England happened along the supernova — a profoundly energetic explosion which can expel more energy in a few months than the sun will through its entire multi-billion year lifespan — catching the object in their scopes Jan. 21.
Berghoff, also a senior, was already doing research work on asteroids when he caught a news item about the supernova, called SN 2014J on Facebook.
“Sure, I maybe should be focusing on asteroids,” he recalled thinking. “But this is too cool.”
Read the rest of the story at the Daily Record’s website. Read more about supernovae here.