DUBLIN, Ireland, Oct. 8 (UPI) — An amateur Irish astronomer scanning the skies from his backyard observatory was the first human to spot a new supernova, experts said.
A supernova is a cataclysmic explosion during which a star self-destructs with incredible force, and while they are spotted reasonably frequently from Earth, this is the first ever identified from Ireland, Britain’s The Independent said.
Dave Grennan of Dublin, a 39-year-old software developer who devotes many hours to astronomy, said it was “mind-boggling” to be the first person to witness something that happened in the time of the dinosaurs.
“We are watching an event as it is unfolding, yet that event happened nearly 300 million years ago,” he said.
The far-away exploding star has been designated “2010ik” after its supernova status was confirmed this week by international astronomy institutions.
Grennan made his discovery while poring over photographs he had taken of a galaxy called UGC 112 from his compact but well-equipped backyard observatory. The signs were tiny but his long experience helped him spot them.
He’s examined thousands of galaxies over the past decade and in recent years has also identified two asteroids.
“I find myself wondering if there were some poor souls living on planets surrounding the star when it exploded,” he said. “We’ll never know.”
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