U.S. Astronomy Students Discover Two Type 1a Supernovae

A team of students from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, using the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment’s telescope ROTSE3b at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains, has discovered two Type 1a supernovae.

Supernova 2013X (Southern Methodist University)

Supernova 2013X (Southern Methodist University)

Light from two massive stars that exploded hundreds of millions of years ago recently reached Earth, and each event was identified as a supernova.

A first supernova was discovered on Nov. 20, 2012. It exploded about 230 million years ago in one of the many galaxies of the Virgo constellation, said Farley Ferrante, who made the initial observation.

“A second supernova was discovered on Feb. 6, 2013. It exploded about 450 million years ago,” Farley said. The exploding star is in a relatively empty portion of the sky labeled ‘anonymous’ in the faint constellation Canes Venatici. This supernova is officially designated Supernova 2013X. It occurred when life on Earth consisted of creatures in the seas and oceans and along coastlines. Following naming conventions for supernova, Supernova 2013X was nicknamed Everest by Govinda Dhungana, a graduate student who participated in the discovery.

Supernova 2012ha (Southern Methodist University)

Supernova 2012ha (Southern Methodist University)

The first supernova is officially designated Supernova 2012ha. The light from that explosion has been en route to Earth since the Triassic geologic period, when dinosaurs roamed the planet. “That’s fairly recent as these explosions go,” Ferrante said. Dhungana gave the nickname ‘Sherpa’ to this object.

“Everest and Sherpa are two of about 200 supernovae discovered worldwide in a given year. Before telescopes, supernovae observations were rare – sometimes only several every few centuries.”

“Everest and Sherpa aren’t noteworthy for being the youngest, oldest, closest, furthest or biggest supernovae ever observed,” Ferrante said.

“But both, like other supernovae of their kind, are important because they provide us with information for further science.”