Homeless Amateur Astronomer on 'Joy' of Discovering Distant Supernova

A self-taught astronomer who is currently homeless has described the joy he felt when he discovered a hitherto unknown exploding star, or supernova. Filipp Romanov from Moscow, Russia, discovered the supernova which has been designated SN 2022bsi located in the galaxy NGC 5902 in the Bootes constellation in early February this year.

The 24-year-old amateur astronomer is no stranger to discovering astronomical objects and events, with 80 variable stars, 10 planetary nebula candidates, four pairs of binary stars, and more to his name. But, this marks the first time he has spotted a supernova.

Romanov told Newsweek: "For the first time in my life I discovered a supernova which was later confirmed by the spectrum [the light it emits].

"On February 9, 2022, I found a supernova candidate in the images from the CRTS (Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey), in The Great Supernova Hunt project. It was added by the project administrator to the Transient Name Server (TNS) of the International Astronomical Union on the same date."

SN 2022bsi
An image of the new supernova discovered by Filipp Romanov as seen by iTelescope T24 Filipp Romanov

Romanov discovered the supernova when he requested pictures of NGC 5902, collected using remote telescope 21 located at the New Mexico Skies Observatory in Mayhill, New Mexico, and stacked the images.

Romanov explained: "This astronomical transient was clearly visible in the stacked image, indicating that it really exists. On February 28, 2022, it was confirmed as a supernova and its type has been classified using analysis of the spectrum
that was obtained at the Palomar 60-inch (1.5m) telescope."

SN 2022bsi has been classified as an SN Ia-91bg-like supernova, a sub-class of Type Ia supernovae, that is located at a redshift of 0.0369 which gives it an estimated distance of approximately 508 million light-years from Earth.

The amateur astronomer continued: "When it was confirmed as a supernova on February 28 by the analysis of the spectrum obtained by the astronomer from Caltech [California Institute of Technology], I felt the same joy as when I discovered the first variable star in January 2016, because these discoveries can be useful for the science of astronomy."

Romanov, who said he began his self-education in astronomy in 2009, told Newsweek that he had hoped to study the science at a university, but this is not possible as since 2017 he and his mother have been homeless.

The astronomer explains: "I don't have a place to prepare for entrance examinations, because along with my mother Larisa and our 16-year-old cat Fanya, I have been homeless for more than five years."

The family is currently living in housing with elderly relatives, but will soon be forced to leave. Romanov said: "In Moscow, we even had to spend the night at the railway station in our wanderings, but we need to vacate this housing soon, but we have nowhere to go because the officials have not given us temporary housing."

Romanov explained that this predicament, which stemmed from trouble in the communal apartment where he lived in Moscow that he said left him and his mother in danger, has also led to him being separated from his beloved telescopes.

In 2021 Romanov, who suffers from bronchial asthma and a heart defect, was granted complimentary two-year membership of the American Association of Variable Star Observers.

On November 13, 2020, Romanov was able to give his presentation "Discoveries of Variable Stars by Amateur Astronomers Using Data Mining: On the Example of Eclipsing Binary Romanov V20" to the AAVSO's 109th Annual Meeting.

The lack of formal education and his difficult personal circumstances has not hampered Romanov publishing his work in academic journals, with his latest paper appearing in The Astrophysical Journal.

Romanov told Newsweek of his commitment to educating the public in astronomy and spreading his love of the subject. He concluded: "I really love to study the science of astronomy and I am glad to tell people about astronomy, which I have been popularizing for free for many years."

Update 3/16/22, 7:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comments from Filipp Romanov.

Correction 3/16/22, 7:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to state that Filipp Romanov discovered 10 planetary nebula candidates.

Supernova Romanov
(Left) the Tycho supernova discovered in 1572 by Tycho Brahe. (Right) Amateur astronomer Filipp Romanov with his telescope before being made homeless in 2017. Romanov continued the tradition of Brahe discovering a new supernova. X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN & GSFC/T. Sato et al; Optical: DSS/ Filipp Romanov/NASA