You Can Help Australian Scientists Look For Exploding Stars

Image: Russell Kightley

Citizen science is flat out awesome, folks.

The latest project you can get involved with is the Australian National University's search for supernovae.

Dr Brad Tucker and Dr Anais Möller, both from from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, are heading up the project.

Dr Tucker says scientists can measure the distance of a supernova from Earth by calculating how much the light from the exploding star fades.

"Supernovae are explosions as bright as 100 million billion billion billion lightning bolts, and so we can use them as markers to measure how the Universe is growing and what’s causing its expansion to accelerate," said Dr Tucker

You'll need to go to Zooniverse.org to search through images taken by the 1.3-metre SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory.

"People can help us find exploding stars by scanning the SkyMapper images online to look for differences and marking up those differences for the researchers to follow up," Dr Tucker said.

ANU SkyMapper is the only telescope that is doing a comprehensive survey of the southern sky looking for supernovae and other interesting transient events at these distances.

Dr Möller said the first people to identify an object that turns out to be a supernova will be publicly recognised as co-discoverers.

"We recognise citizen scientists by listing the first three people to find a previously unknown supernova in the discovery when we report it to the International Astronomical Union," said Dr Möller.

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