Supernova story orbits the globe

All around the world, more than 50 media outlets buzzed June 11 with the news that York University astronomers Norbert Bartel and Michael Beitenholz have witnessed an exploding star and the creation of a black hole or neutron star. First published in the online journal Science June 10 in tandem with a York news release, the story spread far and wide via Associated Press, Canadian Press and CanWest News Service. It was carried in practically every major Canadian newspaper from Vancouver to Halifax and in American newspapers ranging from USA Today to the Alaska Highway News. Radio and television, including CBC-TV’s “The National”, aired a Broadcast News story and and Yahoo! News picked up the story from Even Beijing’s Chinaview posted the story on its Web site.

Bartel and Beitenholz, two of three scientists involved in the discovery, talked to many reporters. Here is a sampling of how they were covered:

  • It’s a finding that establishes a direct link between the stellar objects and supernovae – exploding stars that help form Earth-like planets and life forms, including humans, reported Canadian Press. Scientists have long believed that black holes and neutron stars are formed as stars age and become supernovae, but this is the first time the phenomenon has been observed directly. “I’m quite excited about this discovery because it is what I feel is a textbook story that we can witness now for the first time,” said Bartel, an expert on supernovae who was part of the research team.”The missing piece was always, ‘What is in the centre itself?’ ” Bietenholz, another York University professor on the team, said more research is being done to determine if the object is a neutron star or black hole. “We just don’t know yet if it is one or the other,” he said. “It’s like witnessing the birth of a baby for the first time and not yet knowing if it’s a boy or a girl.”
  • Seeing the bright radio signals that are the fingerprints of a black hole or neutron star was something of a shock for astronomers, even though they had been looking for them, reported The Globe and Mail. “It was expected to not be visible for another couple of decades,” Beitenholz said. “If [the supernova] stays bright, definitely within a decade we should be able to say whether it is a black hole or a neutron star.”
  • The discovery provides the first hard evidence and confirmation of the long-held theory that stars that generate supernovas give birth to either tiny, dense neutron stars or black holes, reported CanWest News Service. Bietenholz, lead author of the Science report, likened the astral show to seeing a baby born for the first time. “It’s like you’ve had sex education and know in theory how babies get born,” said Bietenholz. “Now, we’re actually seeing one get born.” Bartel said “it is just fascinating to see how the smoke from the explosion is blown away and how now after all these years the fiery centre is unveiled.”
  • “This is the first time we’ve seen it happen,” Bietenholz told, whose version of the story was published on and Yahoo! News. “We’ve never seen a supernova leave behind a black hole, and the only supernovae we’ve seen that left behind neutron stars are several centuries or more old, and we only know them from historical records.” Bietenholz and his colleagues described the series of events as a textbook example of how things were theorized to go.”No matter whether the central source is a black hole or neutron star, it would be by far the youngest of either ever observed,” he said.

Music grad hits jackpot in ‘The Casino’

If Mark Burnett’s newest series “The Casino” becomes another reality TV hit, Toronto singer and York grad Matt Dusk will hit the jackpot, reported Canadian Press June 10. Not only is the 25-year-old crooning in the lounge of the Las Vegas casino where cameras catch every conversation, the theme song is one of Dusk’s from his upcoming CD. Dusk, who’s got model good looks and a suave personality to match, graduated from York with a BFA in 2002.

The TV series, debuting on CTV on June 14, follows the owners of a new hotel and casino, Golden Nugget, and captures the lives of employees, including the entertainers and wait staff at Zax restaurant. Over the course of 13 weeks, Dusk will only get about 40 minutes of airtime, he said. But since he’ll be singing material from his new CD, the two “are pretty intertwined.” In fact, his label held off the CD’s release to coincide with the TV show. Two Shots, out June 22, is a Rat Pack-styled compilation of originals penned by Dusk with friends like former MuchMusic host Erica Ehm and music producer Terry Sawchuk, who worked with Alanis Morissette and Our Lady Peace. 

Born and raised in Toronto, Dusk studied music as a child at the acclaimed St. Michael’s Choir School. His time there included classical, choral and opera training. His studies then took him to York University where he took music classes with jazz great Oscar Peterson. Dusk is touring Canada’s jazz festivals this summer beginning with Winnipeg on June 23, Edmonton on June 25 and Calgary on June 26.

TTC takes first steps to subway extension to York

The Toronto Transit Commission will formally file the paperwork needed that may ultimately result in a subway to York University, reported the Toronto Star June 11. The TTC wants its commissioners to approve the terms of reference of an environmental assessment. Such an assessment was done in 1994, but needs to be updated. The line as envisioned would no longer loop to join the Yonge line but would be positioned to head farther northwest into Vaughan. It would have four stops north of Downsview: at the GO station at Finch Ave., the corner of Keele and Finch, the heart of York University, and just north where it would link with York Region’s bus rapid transit station. The assessment process would take until 2006; building it could take a decade, said the Star.

On air

  • Janet Walker, associate dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discussed a possible class action suit against the Royal Bank for the computer glitch that created backlog of customer transactions over the past week, in a CBC Television news clip aired June 10 on affiliates in Red Deer and Montreal and on CBC Newsworld.
  • Poet Christopher Dewdney, contract faculty at York and Glendon’s Writer on the Grounds, promoted his book Acquainted With The Night and discussed his love of darkness, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” June 10.