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Theorem of a Supernova - The NuSTAR Mission

NuSTAR has provided the first observational evidence in support of a theory that says exploding stars slosh around before detonating. That theory, referred to as mild asymmetries, is shown here in a simulation by Christian Ott of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

In this simulation, a supernova explosion is already underway. The small circle in the center represents the material that will form the dense star at the center of a supernova remnant, called a neutron star. The bright ring surrounding it is the shock wave created in the explosion. The colors represent temperature fluctuations. When the movie starts, the explosion has “stalled out,” because the material falling back onto the neutron star has backed up, like too many cars on the freeway, blocking the shock wave from progressing.

As the explosion continues, material starts to slosh around, reenergized by particles called neutrinos. The neutrinos heat up the material more and more, causing the hot regions to rise into the cooler regions and form large bubbles in the material. Once the bubbles break through the surrounding material, it’s as if the top of a pressure cooker blows off. There’s nothing holding back the shock wave any more and the star explodes.

Credit: NASA/Christian Ott/Caltech