It’s all over the news the past couple of days: some astronomers spend a lifetime looking for a supernova, but a 10-year-old-girl found one on her first try. Here’s Kathryn Gray’s story and the stories of nine other talented (or lucky) kids who have made important discoveries at shockingly young ages.
1. Kathryn Gray was checking out some images her dad had taken on New Year’s Eve, comparing them to previous pictures of the same location to see if anything had changed. Spotting a difference, she asked her dad if she had found a supernova. He told her it looked pretty good and sent the images off to be analyzed. It was confirmed the next day, making Miss Gray (whose middle name is Aurora, by the way) the youngest person to ever discover a supernova.
2. Matthew Berger’s dad was working on an archaeological dig in South Africa last April and brought nine-year-old Matthew along for the ride. Perhaps bored with his dad’s digging, Matthew wandered about 15 yards away to do a little investigating of his own – and discovered the collarbone of a little boy roughly two million years older than him. It ended up being one of the most complete sets ever found, with another amazingly intact set believed to be the boy’s mother discovered right next to it.
3. Some people dream of discovering a cache of ancient doubloons buried in the sand – this toddler actually did it. So it wasn’t exactly doubloons on a beach, but it was a 500-year-old pendant worth about $4 million in a British field. James Hyatt and his dad were out messing around with metal detectors in a field when James’ detector “went beep beep beep” (his words), uncovering the rare find.
4. Sometimes a nature walk turns up more than leaves and bugs. That was the case in 2009, when a preschooler in Maynard, Mass., was looking for cool rocks and found himself a plummet instead. Archaeologists believe plummets were once used about 4,000 years ago to weigh down fishing nets. Marshall, the five-year-old who found it, was pretty impressed with its age: “It’s like 70 years old. I wasn’t there. … [Maybe] when they had it, there were dinosaurs and volcanoes!”
5. Most 15-year-old boys are thinking about girls and driver’s licenses… and OK, 15-year-old Tony Hansberry probably thinks of those too, but when he’s not, he’s discovering a medical technique to make hysterectomies less invasive. Hansberry, a student at the Darnell Cookman School of the Medical Arts, found a way to do post-surgery stitching that would lessen the chance of harm or risk to the patient.
6. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are bad news for the environment. Luckily, 13-year-old Larry Caduada is on the case. In 2006, Larry found that a substance in celery called selinene that can be used as a coolant instead of the environmentally-unfriendly Freon. He even published a paper about it called "Selinene: An Organic Alternative to Chlorofluorocarbon as Coolant and Refrigerant.”
7. Giving Kathryn Gray competition in the astronomical discovery category is Shay Bloxton. Although Shay is about five years older, her 2010 discovery of a pulsar is still pretty impressive. The high school sophomore was participating in a program with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory when she found the pulsar. And that’s not the only amazing discovery to come out of the program – in 2009, another high school student found a rotating radio transient, an object similar to a pulsar.
8. Five-year-old Emelia Fawbert was helping her dad at an excavation a couple of years ago when she turned up a vertebra bigger than her head. Although the excavation turned up a couple of other bones as well, Emelia’s was the best. It once belonged to a giant rhinoceros that roamed the Gloucestershire area of England about 50,000 years ago.
9. Kids find bugs every day, but the furry moth little Katie Dobbins found on the windowsill in her house was no ordinary moth - it was an Euonymus Leaf Notcher, native to Asia. That may not seem unusual until you hear that Katie lives in the U.K. where the moth had never been sighted before. Six-year-old Katie was said to have been very excited about all of the hubbub surrounding her find.
10. Four-year-olds and sharp objects are usually things to keep far from one another, but this time, it worked out beautifully. The son of a Denali National Park ranger, the boy was playing near Teklanika River when he turned up a barbed object that ended up being an arrow point made of caribou antler. It was uncertain how ancient the piece was, but some estimates placed it up to 1,100 years old.