Star-struck: Amateur astronomer discovers Ireland’s first supernova

FROM a shed in a Raheny backgarden, an amateur astronomer has made the first-ever Irish discovery of supernova – a star which exploded 290 million years ago.

Supernovae are described as the “cataclysmic failure of a star” and occur when, in an extraordinarily violent explosion, the star self-destructs destroying nearby suns and orbiting planets.

The supernova was found by Dr Grennan, a former chairman of Astronomy Ireland, on September 17, using a Celestron C14 telescope and CCD camera.

However, before such a find can be announced a detailed scientific analysis of the light coming from the explosion has to carried out.

This work was completed in the intervening weeks by Professor Stephen Smart and his team from Queen’s University Belfast who noted the “peculiarities” of the phenomena suggested this was indeed a supernova.

Last night, Dr Grennan was philosophical about his find.

“Naturally I’m very excited at having made this discovery, especially since it’s a first for Ireland.

“I find myself wondering if there were some poor souls living on planets surrounding the star when it exploded. One thing is for sure, we’ll never know,” he said.

“The apparent unusual nature of this event makes it doubly exciting. It will be weeks and months before we know exactly what the true nature of this object is.

“Because of the vast distances involved, this explosion took place over 290 million years ago, long before even the first dinosaurs walked the earth.”

The chairman of Astronomy Ireland David Moore said: “We are delighted that our former chairman has made such an important, momentous discovery.”

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