Amateur astronomer Dave Grennan has astounded professional astronomers and cosmologists by discovering a second supernova in less than two years.
In September 2010, Grennan, 41, made his first sensational discovery when he spotted a supernova using a powerful telescope from his mini-observatory at his home in Raheny, Dublin, Ireland.
Now, lightning has struck twice.
Defying the odds (surely somewhere a maths boff is calculating that), Grennan’s dedication has scored again. The amateur enthusiast can now add one more supernova to his growing list. On Monday, August 22, Grennan was routinely stargazing when he sighted the 123 million-year-old exploding star in the sky.
“I knew exactly what it was. It wasn’t a piece of dust on my camera, it was a supernova.”
After sitting up until 4 am going over his data and checking to see if anyone else had registered the supernova, Grennan contacted the International Astronomical Union who promptly recorded the find as “2012ej.” Astronomers say the exploding star was 100 times bigger than the sun and originated in a galaxy called IC2166.
“It is about 120 million light years away,” Grennan explains.
“That means it has taken 120 million years for the light from this explosion to travel the distance across the depths of the universe and reach us here on planet earth. So we are looking back in time.”
The 41-year-old also said his latest discovery was a tribute to his hero, astronaut Neil Armstrong, who died on Saturday.
For an idea of how epic a supernova is, digest this juicy fact: Supernovas are the biggest explosion type in the universe, after the Big Bang. And according to David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland Magazine, the rarity of Grennan’s double discovery is an event in itself.
“It would be like billions of earths exploding all at once in an unimaginably violent event that would wipe out all life on our planet if it happened to any of the stars near our sun,” said Moore.
“To discover such an event, not to mention two, from Irish soil is a truly remarkable feat.”