Emory astronomer discovers supernova

On the evening of December 6, 2008, astronomy lab instructor Alex Langoussis discovered Supernova 2008hy in the galaxy IC 334. The supernova, at magnitude 14.3 is one of the brightest supernovae of the year and was discovered as part of the ongoing Puckett Observatory Supernova Search. The image was obtained by Tim Puckett using a 24-inch telescope and Alex discovered the supernova while inspecting a set of about 100 galaxy images. He estimates at having looked at about 10,000 galaxies since his last supernova discovery in 2006. SN 2008hy is his 23rd supernova discovery, and first since joining Emory. The discovery was announced to the astronomy world the following day by the International Astronomical Union on circular CBET 1608.

The galaxy and supernova are about 120 million light years distant and located in the direction of the constellation Camelopardalis. Besides helping us understand the processes involved in the life and death of stars, supernovae of type Ia, which 2008hy is, can also be used as "standard candles" to help us determine distances to the far reaches of the universe.

Supernova 2008hy in IC 334.
Image courtesy of Puckett Observatory.