SJSU Student Breaks Own Classmate's Galaxy-Hunting Record

SJSU Student Breaks Own Classmate's Galaxy-Hunting Record

San Jose State University senior Michael Sandoval made a record-breaking discovery in his astrophysics class when he discovered the densest collection of stars in the known universe, also called ultra compact dwarf galaxies, according to NBC Bay Area.

What’s more, Sandoval’s discovery topped his classmate Richard Vo’s, who had previously broken the record last year.

The two students are both members of Professor Aaron Romanowsky’s astrophysics class, and the professor had nothing but praise for his students’ discoveries.

“It’s so great for them to have hit the jackpot,” Romanowsky told NBC. “And not only hitting the jackpot, but twice.”

Vo first made his discovery after approaching Professor Romanowsky last year, expressing an interest in finding ultra compact dwarf galaxies. The professor would only point him in the right direction, directing him to a portion of the sky known to contain dense collections of stars.

After taking a year to learn the software programs needed for galaxy-hunting, Vo quickly made his discovery. 

“It seemed like he had found something right away,” Romanowsky told NBC. “Which is usually a mistake, but it turned out to be real.”

Vo was promptly flown to the renowned Keck Observatory at Mauna Kea in Hawaii to confirm his record-breaking discovery.

NASA highlighted Vo’s discovery in a September 2013 press release; according to NASA, the ultra compact dwarf galaxy found by Vo “is the most luminous known galaxy of its type and one of the most massive, weighing 200 million times more than our Sun.”

However, when Vo returned from Hawaii, classmate Michael Sandoval wanted to get in on the galaxy-hunting fun as well. After Vo taught him everything he had learned, Sandoval got down to business.

“I wanted to get involved,” he said in the report. “I was frantically searching through all these galaxies because I wanted to find a galaxy.”

It only took him about a month to break his classmate’s record, after finding a far denser collection of stars in his observations.

Vo does not seem to mind that his record was broken; according to the report, the two classmates are working together on a research paper outlining their discoveries, and will present their paper to the larger scientific community when it is complete.

Image: NASA/File