Best of 2016 // #88: Supernova Shockwave


For the first time, astronomers were able to capture the ‘shock breakout’ of an exploding star, and it’s a extremely brief glimpse into what might trigger a supernova.

/READ MORE// 10-year-old finds Supernova

When a star of enough size runs out of fuel, it collapses in on itself, triggering a violent explosion – a supernova.  The entire process can take almost two weeks to reach its peak in terms of brightness, but when the star’s collapsing surface reaches the core, a huge burst of light is released.  This is the ‘Shock Breakout’ and it can last a mere 20 minutes.

An international team announced that it had witnessed and captured one back in March, after studying light from almost 50 trillion stars captured by the Kepler plant-hunting spacecraft.

The Shock Breakout happened within star KSN2011d, a star roughly 500 times brighter than out sun and over 1.2 billion light years away.  Our observation of the phenomenon isn’t just a technical breakthrough, it’s also proof of concept.

“It demonstrates that the fundamental idea of core collapse supernovae is correct”
– Peter Garnavich, study leader

There’s 99 more stories from 2016.  Check out the Best of 2016 series here

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