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Indian spots an exploding star

US-based Vishnu Reddy is first Indian amateur to discover a Supernova in Virgo, reports Mayank Tewari.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 16:13 IST

Indian-born US-based amateur astronomer Vishnu Reddy has co-discovered a rare bright supernova, 2006E, in a spiral galaxy called NGC 3558, located in the constellation of Virgo. His discovery was confirmed on Friday night using telescopes in Arizona.

A supernova is a large stellar explosion involving the destruction of a massive star resulting in a sudden brightening. It can briefly be as bright as an entire galaxy. The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, a branch of the International Astronomical Union, which is authorised to approve such discoveries, sent out an alert to astronomers worldwide about Reddy’s new find.

Reddy is part of a supernovae search project headed by fellow amateur astronomer Tim Puckett of Georgia, USA, and has scanned over 4,000 galaxies since last January before stumbling on his find. “While amateurs have been discovering supernovae for sometime, it’s rare to find a bright one,” said Puckett.

For Reddy, the discovery makes him the first Indian amateur to discover a supernova. “It had been a life-long dream for me to discover a supernova,” he says. “I grew up reading about Tim Puckett in magazines. I feel honoured to share a discovery with him and work with him.”

Reddy feels that amateurs living in India can also make similar discoveries if they have the determination and time. “We can no longer say that amateur astronomers in India don’t have the equipment and skills to do discovery work. While it’s not easy, serious amateurs have the tools to accomplish the task,” he says.

Reddy is a researcher at the Department of Space Studies, University of North Dakota, studying asteroids. He has discovered 23 asteroids, one of which was named Bharat recently. He is also the president of Northern Sky Astronomical Society.

First Published: Jan 15, 2006 01:51 IST