Stellar Discovery For 19-Year-Old Student

“Pretty good.” That’s how 19-year-old Celina Mikolajozak feels about discovering a supernova this summer. Mikolajczak, an engineering student at the California Institute of Technology, spotted the event—designated SN 1989N—while participating in Caltech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). The program, says Eleanor Helm, a planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who sponsored Mikolajczak this summer, is designed to giye students the opportunity to participate in research. If the students’ proposals are approved, they receive a $3,000 stipend plus lab space and equipment. Mikolajczak’s project was to search for comets and asteroids, which entailed spending one night at the Palomar Observatory. “That was exciting for us,” says Mikolajczak. “We actually got to use the telescope.” But the films she took on the 18-inch Schmidt telescope didn’t reveal any comets or asteroids. That’s when Helm suggested she look for a supernova. “Celina’s persistence and diligence paid off,”...

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