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Hawaii astronomers observe rarely seen supernova

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Two University of Hawaii astronomers recently participated in the observation of a supernova that’s visible only once in a generation.

The Institute for Astronomy said Monday Alan Stockton and Hsin-Yi Shih observed the exploding star in August using the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea after receiving an urgent email from a University of California at Berkeley scientist.

The scientist, Peter Nugent, wanted to know if they could observe a new supernova SN 2011fe discovered the previous night in California.

Stockton and Shih fulfilled the request, and in return became co-authors on Nugent’s papers using the data. One of the papers was published in the December 15 issue of the journal Nature.

Their work will help astronomers better understand why supernova explosions occur.

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