The Mount Stromlo Abell Cluster Supernova Search


Principal Investigator

Brian P. Schmidt

Mount Stromlo and Siding Springs Observatory


Lisa Germany

Mount Stromlo and Siding Springs Observatory

David Reiss

Christopher Stubbs

University of Washington



The Mount Stromlo Abell Cluster Supernova Search
is search for exploding stars known as Supernovae.
These objects are very rare -they happen in our own galaxy once every thousand years or so - but precious, because they allow us to accurately measure distances to galaxies hundreds of millions, or even billions of light years in distance. Our principal aim is to look at galaxies in all directions, comparing the distances to each supernova to their recession velocity away from us (caused by the expansion of the Universe), and see if we are moving relative to these distant objects. If we are, then we should see that objects on one side of the sky have different distances at a given velocity from those on the other side of the sky. These observations also form a basis for which we can compare extremely distant objects to, and thereby measure if the Universe is slowing down or speeding up in its expansion. This measurement allows us to gauge if the Universe will last forever, or eventually collapse onto itself.


What are the results to date and the future of the work?

The Abell Cluster Search is winding up its work after discovering nearly 50 Supernovae in the past 3 years. The Mass Data Storage is essential to this work, because the amount of data that needs to be sorted through to find a single supernova far exceeds our ability to store the information via convential hard drives, and it is essential that we be able to access old images within a few hours, and automatically.

Over the next year, we will complete our analysis of the Supernova data, and publish results on how many supernovae there are in the Universe, how fast, and in which direction are we moving in the Universe, and describe some particularly unusual events discovered during the course of this search.

The dataset is very rich for other projects, and the archive through the Mass Data Storage Facility is already allowing a search for rare variable stars known as RR-Lyrae stars. These stars will allow us to map the dark matter of our galaxy to an extent, and with detail, never before possible. I anticipate many other similar projects being pursued over the next few years using the data archive.


D. J. Reiss, L.M. Germany, B. P. Schmidt C. W. Stubbs, The Mount Stromlo Abell Cluster Supernova Search, Astronomical Journal, 115, 1998, 26-36.

- Appendix A