The amateur astronomer was the first in the history to receive a photograph of the appearance of the supernova

It would seem that science has not yet managed to get any documented facts of space phenomena. Nevertheless, there are still many interesting things in space about which scientists know, but nevertheless they have never been seen personally. And it turns out that absolutely any person can become a witness of these phenomena. Not necessarily a professional, but, let's say, quite a usual amateur astronomer, like, for example, Victor Buso from the Argentine city of Rosario, who tested a new camera and by chance received the first real photo of the transition of a star into a supernova.

Buso became the first person to receive an optical (visible) image of the light before and after the "shock wave" caused by the exploding star. This moment occurs exactly at the moment when the star explodes and a supersonic shock wave from the star's core breaks out onto its surface, causing a very rapid heating of its gas shell and increased brightness. In other words, this is the very-very first outbreak of a supernova explosion.

This phenomenon is incredibly difficult to catch in the lens, because it is very quickly happening. In addition, you need to get at it at the right time, and it is impossible to predict it, while the effect of an internal shock wave itself lasts an extremely small amount of time. Professional astronomers have tried to catch this moment for many years, but always to no avail.

"It's like winning a space lottery," explains Alex Filippenko, a professor of astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley and head of the team who was responsible for following the supernova over the next few months.

There are so many factors and luck should converge in one place, so that you can get what you got from Buso. He was lucky on September 20, 2016, when an amateur astronomer was testing his new camera, mounted on a 40-centimeter telescope. As a test target, Buso chose galaxy NGC 613, located about 80 million light-years from us in the southern hemisphere of the sky. Buso considered it an ideal goal, because it was directly above it.

For an hour and a half, he took photographs of the galaxy with a 20-second exposure to avoid distortions caused by a number of located urban light sources. Within the first 20 minutes, all the photographs were the same, but after Buso noted something – a small point of light, located on one of the spiral arms of the galaxy. In less than a minute, as an amateur astronomer realized that he had just taken a picture of something extraordinary.

Negatives Buso, which shows the difference in the brightness of the supernova over a certain period of time

According to professional astronomers, the chance of obtaining such a photograph is 1 to 10, and possibly to 100 million.

"The data received by Buso are simply astounding. This is an outstanding example of how useful cooperation can be between amateur astronomers and professionals, "Filippenko commented.

For further observation of the supernova, a team of professional researchers used the facilities of the Lika and Kek observatories and two months after the discovery named the detected object SN 2016gkg.

Spectral analysis of the object showed that it belongs to Type IIb supernovae – formerly very massive stars, which lost almost all of their mass at the time of the explosion. Scientists have calculated that earlier this supernova was a star with a mass about 20 times greater than the solar one, and then it could lose up to three of its quarters. It was assumed that this mass could be picked up by a companion star. By the time the star became a supernova, its mass was about 5 solar.

Longer observation of the object will help astronomers learn more about the composition of the star before it exploded, and also get more data about the explosion itself and possibly find out the fate of the companion star.

"Professional astronomers have long been looking for a similar event. Observation of the stars in the first moments of their explosion can provide us with information that can not be obtained in any other way, "concludes Filippenko.

The article about the discovery and further preliminary observations of the supernova was published in the journal Nuture , of course, with Buso as a co-author of the work.

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