back to article Amateur astronomer strikes it lucky with first glimpse of a Supernova

Published today in the journal Nature is a description of a rare and difficult to capture event – the birth of a supernova (and the death of a star). Amateur astronomer, Victor Buso, struck lucky in September 2016 when he decided to test out a new camera attached to his 16 inch telescope. Keen to make sure his new toy was …

  1. John Sager

    Nova GSi?

    WTF? That's a blast from the past, and perhaps that phrase is the only thing that might be even peripherally be associated with the subject of this article. Tone down the whimsy pls.

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Re: Nova GSi?

      No, whimsy is good. Whimsy is why we like El Reg. Dull science we can get in Ap.J.

      1. Tom 64

        Re: Nova GSi?

        My mate had one of these. Great little car. Naturally he binned it in a ditch.

        1. Long John Brass

          Re: Nova GSi?

          Are these things anything like the Vauxhall Chevette? Which also dropped oil, engine parts and other random bits and bobs. They never actually seemed to die though... The zombie car?

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Nova GSi?

            We called them the Vauxhall Shove-It because inevitably that was what happend when we had lifts in them - we wound up being the engine component. I'm not sure if it was the owner of these things treating them considerably worse than others or just a demonstration of the reliability of them.

            Petrolheads may be disappointed to learn that a supernova is not a variant of the venerable Vauxhall Nova GSi, which transported many a 1990s teenager around town in style while leaving a trail of oil and engine parts in its wake - rather it is one of the last, violent, acts in the life of a massive star.

            The question for a Friday is: which is/was more survivable? A supernova or a trip across the country in a Vauxhall Nova GSi? From (repressed) memory I'm edging towards the supernova.

            1. hoola Silver badge

              Re: Nova GSi?

              I had a used Chevette in the 80's and it was a gem. If you went down a hill, when you put the power back on at the bottom the road would disappear in a huge cloud of smoke. The rear diff sounded like a coffee grinder and the engine had a great knock. That said it refused to die, you just needed plenty of oil (it was like running a two-stroke at times).

              It had one redeeming feature, the boot was absolutely massive (it puts most of today's similar sized cars to shame) and would swallow a tuba. two trumpets and a horn, the trombone of the brass quintet had to go inside with the occupants.

              Unfortunately it expired on a road in the middle of bugger-all in Wales and was pushed into a ditch so cars could pass!.

            2. Ben Bonsall

              Re: Nova GSi?

              Depends on whether you're a whelk or not.

          2. 's water music

            Re: Nova GSi?

            Are these things anything like the Vauxhall Chevette?

            Mechanically, perhaps. Culturally, not so much.

          3. phuzz Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Nova GSi?

            The Nova was basically the follow up to the Chevette, but it's based on the Opel Corsa from Spain apparently. From the second gen on they just called them Corsas.

            The entire wiki entry is worth a read, but I'll leave you with this gem:

            "A very significant security problem with the Nova was that removing the hazard light switch, turning it upside down and inserting it back into its slot would cause the ignition to come on with no clear explanation."

        2. Sgt_Oddball

          Re: Nova GSi?

          My sister owned a pimped up purple one of those before rolling it.. I hire ever was far more sensible... (I owned the 1.2i 4 speed manual that looked stock but had a fettled engine. Turns out past 100 it stops being so areodynic that's not fun..i also managed not to roll mine when i crashed it but parked it in a ditch instead. )

          Still the worst car I have ever driven... and that includes my last one which got scraped with no handbrake, barely working brakes, a mostly dead battery and something growing on... well most of the interior ontop of being an estate hand me down.

  2. AndrueC Silver badge

    Amateur astronomer, Victor Buso, struck lucky in September 2016 when he decided to test out a new camera attached to his 16 inch telescope.

    Not so lucky for anyone living on a rock orbiting it (back when it happened). Not too great for anyone living on rocks orbiting nearby stars either :-/

    1. Daedalus

      No rocks here

      Massive-type supernovas don't have time to develop planets with life. Depending on how massive the star is, it could live only 10 million years or maybe 100 million. It took a few hundred million years just for the Earth to cool down to the point where it had water.

      As for nearby stars: the general opinion is that supernovas aren't a threat beyond a few light years. Just as well, because Betelgeuse is going to blow up sooner or later and it's only 600 light years away.

      1. asdf

        Re: No rocks here

        Well said but from what I understand they keep pushing back how little time Earth needed before it had water (wow quick check shows may have formed with some surface water). Things (life, water, etc) early on seem to happen much faster than boffins previous had assumed. Your point still stands as it took a shed load of a long time until complex life showed up though.

      2. Red Bren

        Re: No rocks here

        Betelgeuse might have already blown up in the last 599 years, we just haven't seen it yet...

  3. Pen-y-gors

    Correct vocabulary please

    What on earth are 'Professional astronomers'? Surely you mean cosmo-boffins or whatever the approved El Reg boffinry sub-category is?

    And how big is a 10-metre telescope in linguini?

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Correct vocabulary please

      71.4286 linguini, or

      1.0847 double decker buses, or

      0.455 brontosaurus

  4. ma1010

    So the odds are pretty good, then, really

    After all, as Sir Terry said, 1 in a million shots come true about half the time, so 1 in 10 million should be about 1 in 10?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1 in 10 MEEEELION chances crop up 1 time out of 10...

  6. Chairman of the Bored

    Got to admire the amateur...

    ...most really cool discoveries seem to start out with "gee, that's strange" rather than "eureka!". The hard part is not dismissing an observation that looks strange as "noise" or "error" and actually investigating the cause. I believe a pint is in order.

  7. lglethal Silver badge

    1 in 10 million?

    About the same as the odds of your Nova making it across the country without breaking down. Sounds about right...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 1 in 10 million?

      ...and better odds than winning the UK lottery jackpot!

  8. Stevie


    A transcript of Mr Buso making the phone call reporting the supernova was captured by Alexa and follows:

    "Arrgghh! Jesusf*ck my eye! Christ! Argh! Where's the f*cking phone? Argharghargh! Hello? Ambulance! I need an ambulance for f*cks sake! One with an eyebath. Argh! And I'd like to report a supernova. Where? In my eye right now! Arrrrgh!"

    1. MT Field

      Re: Bah!

      That would be from the astronomical wing of the hollywood pirates - arggh.

  9. wsm

    Discoverers v. academics

    It took one man with some interest in the skies who could operate a camera to find this and realize what had happened. it took 21 authors of the Nature article to get the supernova reported to the public.

    Nothing unusual in this, but I would rather be facing the right direction and know what I saw than have to build a career on the discoveries of others.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Discoverers v. academics

      It's been some time since the content of a scientific paper could consist of "look! a new light in the sky!", or "a two headed calf was born". They'll have done quite a lot of analysis and comparison beyond what the discoverer did.

      Also, Nature didn't report it to "the public". Nature published a scientific paper analysing the supernova, and as PR pitched it to the press using the hook of an amateur discovery.

      Lastly, there is a "V Buso" listed as an author, and "VB" is described as the discoverer in the first sentence in the main text.

    2. 's water music

      Re: Discoverers v. academics

      I would rather be facing the right direction and know what I saw than have to build a career on the discoveries of others

      One suspects that Mr Buso's (impressive) ability to recognise and identify the phenomenon was almost certainly derived from the shoulders of giants rather than derived entirely from first principles. I take my hat off to his infinitesimal contribution to the sum of human knowledge

  10. Martin Budden Silver badge

    A flash in the pan

    Mr Buso has had his moment in the spotlight, and will likely fade into obscurity. Stardom is fleeting.

    1. Michael Thibault

      Re: A flash in the pan

      Yeah, here today, gone tomorrow.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: A flash in the pan

      It's like he'll disappear into a black hole...

  11. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Buso Bang Burger Bar

    Shamelessly borrowed from DNA.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    My Precious...

    "Keen to make sure his new toy was working..."

    A 16 inch scope is not a "toy." its costly and delicate presence indicates a serious interest at work. Yea, even unto an obsession, perhaps.

    1. G.Y.

      8" Re: My Precious...

      The Lowell observatory sells an 8" scope for a petty-cash sum

    2. joshimitsu

      Re: My Precious...

      He built an observatory tower on top of his house. That seems like he's near the top end of "hobbyist" to me.

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: My Precious...

      Eeek. In honour of it being a Friday, and just being naturally curious I stupidly googled 16" telescopes. There's some serious range in prices out there with the more motorised versions being £20k but the manual ones being close to £1.5k.

      While I had an idea that the bigger the telescope the more important it is that they are manufactured to high specifications (and field correctable) but I didn't appreciate that one also had to be very careful to ensure that the components, eye lenses, camera lenses, etc were all at stable temperatures. Makes sense when you learn this, of course, but not what would have been at the front of my mind.

      But it's a wasted day if I don't learn something...

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: My Precious...

      The 'new toy' was his new camera, not the scope he attached it to.

  13. Glenn Booth

    >> a supernova is not a variant of the venerable Vauxhall Nova GSi

    No, that would be the "Millennium Nova", made (a bit) famous by Jimbo Loony in his legendary but underrated parodies of Star Wars. .

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done that man, keep at it !

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