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supernova hunters and 9 classes for curious folks

On the weekend, a bunch of us had enjoyable with a well timed problem – looking for and follow-up supernovae with supernova hunters as a part of the 9 Classes and Carols for Curious Folks 24 hour science/music/comedy present organised by Robin Ince and the Cosmic Shambles Community in help of assorted good causes. Robin and Brian Cox usually run an enormous present on the Hammersmith Apollo theatre at the moment of 12 months, however this socially distant, marathon present was an appropriate alternative.

Robin and musician Steve Fairly someplace in the midst of the 24 and a bit hour lengthy present – they have been on stage all through! Credit score: Cosmicshambles.com

Within the run as much as the present there was some concern that poor climate in Hawai’i – the place the PanSTARRS telescope that gives information for Supernova Hunters is situated – may stop us getting sufficient information, however within the occasion skies have been clear. Very clear. Which brought on an issue as the additional information took some time to get to the servers at Queen’s College Belfast and from there to us, however because of heroic efforts from the Supernova Hunters group, I used to be capable of zoom into the present early on and pointed the viewers to the supernovahunters.org website, and classifications began to circulation in.

Supernova searching is a aggressive sport today, and although the early outcomes from volunteers have been encouraging, most of what we discovered was both too faint to make follow-up straightforward with the telescopes we had on stand by or have been objects already recognized by different surveys (together with the Zooniverse’s buddies at ZTF). A quick reappearance on the 9 Classes huge display screen (and an electronic mail to current volunteers asking for assist) later and we lastly had a set of excellent candidates.

Liverpool Telescope within the Canary Islands, which was chargeable for our first follow-up observations. Credit score: Liverpool Telescope.

The group – particularly Ken Smith and Darryl Wright – labored in a single day to rearrange follow-up. Once I emerged from just a few hours sleep observers on the Liverpool Telescope had checked out our most promising candidate – nevertheless it turned out to not be a supernova, however slightly a much less excessive cosmic explosion generally known as a cataclysmic variable. I marvelled on the reality Robin was nonetheless awake – and was coherently interviewing cosmologists, mind scientists and the odd astronaut – and gave an replace.

Simply after I completed, Belfast’s Ken Smith popped up with the information that observers in Hawai’i utilizing the SNIFS instrument had adopted up different targets – and considered one of them was an actual supernova! Higher, it was a kind 1a – the sort of supernova that can be utilized to measure the growth fee of the Universe. Admittedly it was a kind 1a-91bg, a rarer sort of supernova which is fainter than a standard sort 1a, however nonetheless helpful, and this gave us a payoff for the present.

Spectrum confirming our candidate is a SN1a-91bg related to a galaxy at redshift z=0.061 – gentle from an explosion that occurred practically a billion years in the past.

Utilizing solely that supernova, a little bit of maths on the again of an envelope and some pretty shaking assumptions, we calculated that the Universe was 12.8 billion years outdated, a few billion in need of the generally accepted worth. I wouldn’t throw out the cautious systematic evaluation of populations of supernova for this straightforward calculation – however we did get to announce to a bleary eyed comic that the Universe is perhaps (a bit of bit) youthful than anticipated.

Simply as I went on air a message from Mark Huber, the observer offering information from Hawai’i, confirmed a second supernova – this one a kind II, an exploding huge star. It would even be of the identical sort because the well-known 1987A which was noticed in a satellite tv for pc galaxy of the Milky Approach, the Massive Magellanic Cloud. Attempting to take this in, and convey what was taking place shortly was bit a lot for my sleep-deprived mind however hopefully folks realised we confirmed a second supernova!

Extra importantly, we’ve recorded the outcomes of all of our discoveries in a Astronote revealed on the Transient Identify Server web site (the worldwide clearing home for such discoveries). You may learn the results of a Supernova Hunters weekend right here – and rejoice in the truth that Robin Ince and a few of the Cosmic Shambles group are actually coauthors on a scientific publication!

I’ll publish hyperlinks to clips from the present after they’re accessible too, and when you fancy supernova searching your self there can be extra information on the supernovahunters.org website quickly!


PS Thanks 1,000,000 to the Supernova Hunters volunteers, and to the group that made it occur – Brooke Simmons (Lancaster), Ken Smith (Belfast), Darryl Wright (Mayo Clinic), Coleman Krawczyk (Portsmouth) and Grant Miller and Belinda Nicholson (Oxford). Michael Fulton and Shubham Srivastav from QUB took the Liverpool Telescope observations, and Michael additionally led the publication of our AstroNote.

PPS This provides Robin Ince a Erdös Variety of, I feel, no larger than 5. His Bacon quantity (in line with the Infinite Monkey Cage) is not any larger than 3, so this provides him a Bacon-Erdös variety of not more than 15! Extra importantly, as he’s carried out music on stage, he should have a Sabbath quantity, although discovering out what it’s requires additional work – making him one of many uncommon variety of people with EBS numbers. An acceptable reward for twenty-four hours of effort.

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