California Undergrad Makes Astronomy Breakthrough
No term exists for Michael Sandoval's stellar discovery
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted May 26, 2014 8:38 AM CDT
This stock photo shows a dense swarm of stars.   (AP Photo/NASA-ESA)

(Newser) – At just 21 years old, a California college student has made an incredible discovery: Michael Sandoval and his astrophysics professor at San Jose State have spotted what they believe is one galaxy that was swallowed up by another. The result is a dense system of stars—apparently the densest ever found. They're calling it a "hypercompact cluster," since no word for the object currently exists, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The finding occurred as Sandoval took the first course he'd ever taken on the subject, NBC Bay Area reports.

"Some people take years and never find" such space phenomena, says astrophysics professor Aaron Romanowsky. Sandoval took about a week to find it, inspired by the work of a classmate who'd found what had previously appeared to be the densest known bunch of stars. To make the story even more impressive, Sandoval's find came as he grieved for his mother, who died in October. He'd been living at home in recent years to take care of her during an illness, sometimes having to take her to the ER before heading to class the next day. "I didn't want to be sitting home, feeling sorry for myself," Sandoval says. "That's not what she would have wanted, anyway." (Another recent space discovery involves an ancient space collision.)

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Showing 3 of 14 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
May 29, 2014 9:18 PM CDT
Going forward, there's going to be a lot more of these private discoveries by the non-experts in the field. That's because if you have enough money or get a grant, you can access a network of Earth and space based imaging systems from your home. One such new one will be a space based commercial observatory for public booking use.
May 26, 2014 2:45 PM CDT
Perhaps its just an unusually dense cluster of stars.
May 26, 2014 1:25 PM CDT
A discovery any four year old could have made.