Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Astronomers Glimpse Supernova Shockwave

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Astronomers have captured the earliest minutes of two exploding stars, and for the first time seen a shockwave generated by a star’s collapsing core. “It’s like the shockwave from a nuclear bomb, only much bigger and no one gets hurt,” said Dr Brad Tucker of The Australian National University.

Stars explode when their fuel runs down and the core collapses. The resulting supernova explosion is brighter than the rest of its galaxy, and shines for some weeks.

Supernovae are so bright that they can be seen in distant galaxies, but very little is known about the early stages of these explosions.

As the core of a supernova collapses to form a neutron star, energy bounces back from the core in the form of a shockwave that travels at 30–40,000 km/s and causes the nuclear fusion that creates heavy elements such as gold, silver and uranium.

The new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal (...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.