Ted Talk and Oscar's super nova

Roland Christen

Hello Astronuts,

When Marj and I went to Chile to set up our 12" Mak-Cass astrograph system, the resident telescope technician Oscar Duhalde helped us set up the 12" scope at the Las Campanas observatory complex. It turns out that Oscar is the only human to have ever discovered a super nova with just his eyeballs, ever since the Crab nebula super nova back in the 14th century discovered by some Chinese astronomers. No one has done it since just with the unaided eye. Here is a Ted Talk describing his adventure:


When I heard the talk on the radio I was taken back to the mountain and re-lived that special time that we had up there. It was a lifetime event like nothing we had ever experienced before or after. 

You can read about our Las Campanas Remote Observatory here: http://lascampanasremote.org/observatory/

Our setup crew consisted of Mike Long of the Carnegie Institute who secured us the facility, Dave Jurasevich who built an installed the pier, wiring, etc., and  Marj and myself who provided the mount and telescope along with making them work with their computer system. Oscar was hugely helpful in finding special tools and in some cases nuts, bolts and other miscellaneous hardware that we needed to make everything work. He was generous with his time, even though he was primarily responsible for operating the 100 inch scope some distance away. At one point our rental car had several flat tires, which he had quickly repaired at his maintenance shop on site up in that remote location some 100 miles from the nearest big city.

We spent a night chatting with Oscar and a couple of visiting astronomers at the controls of the 100 inch while they were gathering spectroscopic data on an eclipsing variable. This was a unique system where the secondary star was moving behind the primary and its light was shining thru the primary's atmosphere. This apparently happens for only a few days every 4+ years, so in order for the astronomer to gather this data, he has to be there at the exact time every 4 years. Talking with these professionals was very exciting for us mere amateurs, and revealed a world of science you don't get to see very often.


Roland Christen


Hi Roland

Thank you for sharing these amazing experiences.

The unaided eye discovery of a supernova is a tremendous accomplishment which we will likely never see again, at least in our lifetimes, especially with all the new large telescopes being installed to systematically scan / image the sky, 

On the other hand, we are so fortunate to have technology on our side which gives us the capability to image DSO’s which amateurs could not have dreamed of a few decades ago.  My first telescope was a criterion rv6 which I used with a camera and hand processed film with manual Guiding.  In those days, who would have thought that we could take automated 20 minute subs with sensitive cameras that allow us to capture objects as faint as Palomar could see back then?

The ability to travel to southern dark skies is also a blessing which a few centuries would have been only a dream.  Such sights would have been impossible for Northern Hemisphere dwellers, except for the likes of navigators such as Ferdinand Magellan.
I consider myself tremendously fortunate to have visited Chile twice and experienced Las Campanas, and used the AP equipment at the Hacienda Los Andes.

Once again my appreciation for sharing these inspiring experiences.