Amateur astronomer captures supernova's first light

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And you don't always need to be a scientist to find them.

Surprisingly, this is the first-ever view of the initial burst from the explosion of a massive star, since stars explode seemingly at random and the light from the shock breakout is fleeting.

A powerful pressure wave from that explosion heated up the dead star's surface gas, causing it to brighten and emit light - the "shock breakout" that Buso captured.

First, as reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, an amateur astronomer setting up his camera in Argentina captured the rare first light from a supernova. Continued observations and analysis of the original images helped astronomers learn a lot about the star that preceded the explosion, as well as the early stages of supernovae in general. He further commemorated Buso for his phenomenal efforts and also cherished the partnership between a professional and amateur astronomers which could do the outstanding job together.

Another co-author of the study Alex Filippenko, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, stated that this flees like winning the cosmic lottery.

Indeed, obtaining the photographs involved a concatenation of lucky circumstances for Buso.

The hero of the hour is Víctor Buso, an amateur photographer and astronomer who recently got a new camera, and wanted to test it out by taking some photos of the stars through his 16-inch telescope. Not only did he take several different long-exposure photos of the same part of the sky, as he looked over the photos he's taken he realized that there was a faint light in his later pictures that wasn't present in the first few images. After examining a set of short-exposure photos he'd just taken, he noticed something unusual on the outskirts of the galaxy - a spot of light that was clearly brightening.

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Amateur astronomer Victor Buso was testing his camera-telescope setup in Argentina back in September 2016, pointing his Newtonian telescope at a spiral galaxy called NGC613.

Buso didn't just discover a supernova, though.

According to the researchers, the chances of such a discovery are one in 10 million - maybe even one in 100 million. He further added that Buso has provided some exceptional data and this finding also shows a flawless example of partnership work between professional astronomers and amateur astronomer.

Filipenko's team used the Lick Observatory in California and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to examine the spectra of light given off by the explosion, and was able to determine that the event could be classed as a Type IIb supernova.

The team calculated that SN 2016gkg started at around 20 times the mass of our Sun and lost three quarters of its mass, possibly to a companion star. Further, the size of the star was approximately 20 solar masses, however, when during the process of supernova, the inner forces of the star tugged it closely together forming a size of just over five solar masses before it releases all the energy in the universe and dies.

"Professional astronomers have always been searching for such an event", Filippenko said.

"Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that can not be directly obtained in any other way", said Filippenko, who followed up the discovery with observations that proved critical to a detailed analysis of explosion, called SN 2016gkg.