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  1. ITV Report

Star explodes as science students stare into space

Science students who were staring onto space during a telescope workshop ended up witnessing an explosion 12 million light years away.

The image spotted by students at UCL Credit: University College London

The exploding star was found by students at University College London during a brief 10 minute workshop.

Supernova in Messier 82 Credit: University College London

The weather was closing in, with increasing cloud, so instead of the planned practical astronomy class, I gave the students an introductory demonstration of how to use the CCD camera on one of the observatory’s automated 0.35-metre telescopes.

– Dr Steve Fossey

The students chose, a bright and photogenic galaxy as their target, known as M 82, because it was located in one of the few areas of clear sky. The supernova is one of the nearest to be observed in recent decades.

One minute we’re eating pizza then five minutes later we’ve helped to discover a supernova.

I couldn’t believe it. It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place.

– Tom Wright, Student

The chances of finding anything new in the sky is astronomical but this was particularly astounding as it was one of the first images we had taken on this telescope. My career plan had been to continue my studies in astrophysics.

It’s going to be hard to ever top this though!

– Ben Cooke, Student