Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

Supernova Shocker!

The "shock breakout" captured in visible light for the first time.

By Yvette CendesDecember 12, 2016 6:00 AM
When a massive star dies, it explodes as a supernova, which includes a short burst of visible light, as in this illustration. Click to enlarge. | NASA Ames, STScI/G. Bacon.


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

For the first time, astronomers have captured in visible light an exploding star’s “shock breakout” — an extremely brief window into what triggers one type of supernova.

When a massive star runs out of fuel at the end of its life, it collapses and triggers a violent explosion known as a supernova. The entire process can take weeks to reach peak brightness. When the collapsing core reaches the star’s surface, it releases a burst of light, called a shock breakout, that lasts 20 minutes.

An international team announced the discovery in March after studying light from some 50 trillion stars captured by the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft. The shock breakout occurred within the star KSN2011d, 1.2 billion light-years away and roughly 500 times the size of our sun.

The observation of such a brief event isn’t just a technical milestone; it also “demonstrates that the fundamental idea of core collapse supernovae is correct,” explains team leader Peter Garnavich.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 50%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In