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Citizen scientists are invited to help find supernovae

Shine bright like a supernova
1280pxKeplers_supernova
An infrared, multiwavelength X-ray compilation image of Kepler's supernova remnant SN 1604.
NASA/ESA/JHU/R.Sankrit & W.Blair

If you’ve ever wanted to find supernovae, now’s your chance. The Australian National University (ANU) is inviting citizen scientists to join the search for the bright, exploding stars.

Supernovae are the bright explosions that mark the end of a star’s life and can shine brighter than entire galaxies. They are incredibly useful for researchers who use the bright light from the explosion as a form of measurement.

“Using exploding stars as markers all across the universe, we can measure how the universe is growing and what it’s doing,” ANU astrophysicist and co-lead researcher Dr. Brad Tucker said in a press release. “We can then use that information to better understand dark energy, the cause of the universe’s acceleration.”

To get involved with the study, all any interested citizen scientist has to do is search images from the SkyMapper telescope, a 1.3-meter telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory, on a website called Zooniverse.org and mark any differences they see in the images. From there, the researchers will check over the marked images and see what they found.

Dr. Tucker said the team is studying an overwhelmingly large amount of sky, so the help would “achieve things that would take scientists working alone years to do.”

The volunteer help isn’t without glory, though. Co-lead researcher Dr. Anais Möller from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said, “The first people who identify an object that turns out to be a supernova will be publicly recognised as co-discoverers.”

Dr. Tucker said the team plans to use this information to gather measurements of the universe as well as have a better understanding of supernovae.

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