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Keck Telescope Captures Glimpse of Supernova

Westmont professor pinpoints flare in a distant galaxy's spiral arm.


A supernova, several billion stars bright, was discovered recently in a galaxy about 400 million light years away.

Thanks to the research of astronomical investigators Tim Puckett and Jack Newton of the Puckett Observatory in Ellijay, Ga., Westmont College physics professor Michael Sommermann was able to image the bright but temporary flare called Supernova 2008an.

Using Westmont’s Keck Telescope, one of the most powerful telescopes on the Central Coast, Sommermann was able to locate 2008an in one of the spiral arms of a galaxy called UGC 10936, about 400 million light years away.

“Astronomers are interested in this because supernovas are like standard candles that allow us to determine distances in the universe,” Sommermann said.

He said the discovery is also exciting because it demonstrates Westmont’s potential for future searches, collaborations with other astronomers and student research.

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