A Type II Supernova

The brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave—the “shock breakout”—is illustrated in this animation. The video begins with a view of a red supergiant star that is 500 X larger and 20,000 X brighter than the Sun. When the star could no longer sustain nuclear fusion, it became a Type II supernova as its core collapsed under its own gravity. A shockwave from that implosion rushed upward through the star, initially breaking through the star’s visible surface as a series of finger-like jets of plasma. Within 20 minutes, the full fury of the shockwave reached the surface, and the star was blown apart as a supernova explosion. This animation is based on photometric observations made by the Kepler space telescope. While monitoring the star KSN 2011d (about 1.2 billion light-years away), Kepler caught the onset of the early flash and subsequent explosion.

Video Credit: NASA

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