Maple Ridge man makes astronomical discovery – Maple Ridge News


Citizen science is alive and well in Maple Ridge, and a local astronomy enthusiast would like to encourage others to take over.

Balaji Kumar identified a dwarf nova explosion from his observatory in the Silver Hills neighborhood on May 7.

“I want people to know that this can be done from anyone’s backyard,” he said, adding that he hopes it will inspire more locals interested in the night sky to help. the scientific community.

Kumar began the search for asteroids, comets and transient events about four weeks ago, and was delighted with the discovery.

“It’s very exciting,” he said.

Space is more than just a hobby for Kumar.

He is also an engineer who designs spaceships to live with MDA, a large Canadian space company.

In 2013, he started photographing the night sky, but said he was bored doing the same and started hunting for asteroids.

Large observatories around the world provide the coordinates of possible asteroids, and citizen scientists confirm their existence.

Kumar loved to participate in the hobby, but decided to make better use of his impressive backyard.

A 14-inch telescope sits on a mount and is housed under a dome.

It also contains a computer that controls the movement of the telescope and collects data.

The evening’s findings are sent to a second computer in Kumar’s house, which processes the data and produces a list of objects that might match the parameters of what he’s looking for.

“Usually there are a lot of items, but it’s often 99.9% garbage,” he said.

“But then there are things like that (dwarf nova explosion). When I first saw it I was like – OK, wow, now that’s something!

The phenomenon usually occurs in binary star systems, which are systems containing two stars.

A small, dense star – of massive weight – orbiting another larger, dying or dead star.

The smaller of the two uses its gravitational force to steal mass in the form of hydrogen from its larger orbital partner for several years.

It accumulates gas around itself, and after several decades the pressure increases and temperatures reach hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius.

The hydrogen fuses into helium and the outer layer begins to explode.

This particular dwarf nova explosion took place in the constellation Cygnus, which is about 3,000 light years away.

For reference, this explosion would have occurred around the same time that King Solomon completed construction of the first temple in Jerusalem.

Kumar says they’re quite rare to spot.

In the example he recorded, the smaller star lit up to 200 times its ordinary brightness.

In many cases, it takes a few weeks to disappear, so many other astronomers observe it from observation.

Of course, like all scientific discoveries, the find had to be peer reviewed, so Kumar approached Brazilian Paulo Holvercem – who designed the software he uses – to help him.

Since the original sighting, Kumar has also found another transient object and hopes to discover many more.

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