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Multi-colored supernova gases Supernovas are brilliant balls of energy and light caused when stars explode. This photo rendering shows different hot gases left over from a supernova explosion. (NASA)

10-Year-Old Discovers Supernova

Canadian student becomes the youngest person to ever find an exploding star

By Larry Schwartz | January 10 , 2011
<br />Kathryn with her father's telescope.<br /><br />(David Smith / Canadian Press / AP Images)

Kathryn with her father's telescope.

(David Smith / Canadian Press / AP Images)

Not every 10-year-old can tell their classmates they discovered a supernova. But Kathryn Aurora Gray can!

The junior astronomer from New Brunswick, Canada, is the youngest person ever to discover a supernova.

"A supernova is a star that is blowing up," Kathryn explains. When a star runs out of fuel, it explodes into a massive ball of energy and light called a supernova. The explosion can last for several weeks. "Eventually, it will fade away," she says.

A FAMILY TRADITION

Kathryn has been looking up at the sky all her life. She and her dad are both amateur astronomers.

A few months ago, Kathyn's father Paul told her about Caroline Moore, a teenager from New York who found a supernova in 2008. President Obama was so impressed by Caroline's discovery that he invited her to visit the White House.

"If a 14-year-old can do it, I can do it," Kathryn told her dad.

SPOTTING STARS

Last week, Kathryn and her dad looked at photos their neighbor David Lane had taken. Lane is a fellow stargazer who owns the nearby Abbey Ridge Observatory.

He used a special telescope at the observatory to take pictures of the Camelopardalis constellation (a group of stars that people say look like something else, usually an animal or a famous person). Camelopardalis is the ancient Roman name for giraffe, which the stars look like from Earth.

Kathryn pointed out a very bright light in the constellation. Could it be a supernova? The team reported their discovery to the International Astronomical Union. They confirmed that Kathryn was the first person to spot SN 2010It.

Many people spend their lives hoping to discover a supernova. But Kathryn found one on her first try. "I was very excited to find one. Especially this quick," Kathryn says. "I hope to keep finding more supernovas."

Still, Kathryn has a little way to go to catch up to her dad. Her father has discovered seven supernovas!

KID REPORTER COVERAGE: Andrew Liang interviews Kathryn about her discovery.

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