Dec. 8, 1999 A team of astrophysicists supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) spotted 20 supernovae this November, partly due to a student's hard work.
Alicia Soderberg, a physics and math major at Bates College in Maine, joined the team for its recent search as part of an NSF program that provides undergraduates with hands-on research experience. Using the prominent Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, she personally identified nine of the 20 new supernovae, including the most distant one found to date.
"It's thrilling to shout across the room 'I've got one!' when you spot the first supernova during an observing run," says Soderberg. "No classroom experience could have prepared me for the excitement of doing hands-on astronomy with some of the world's best."
The team launched its search for supernovae - bright, dying stars located billions of light years from Earth - in the hope that measuring the light from these stars can help determine the change in the rate of expansion of the universe. Preliminary results imply that the universe is accelerating, not slowing down. NSF's Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory in Chile has also been used in the search.
For more information, see: http://www-cfa.harvard.edu/cfa/oir/Research/supernova/HighZ.html
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