Supernova Images Support Theories

LA SILLA, Chile, Aug. 4 (UPI) — European astronomers say they’ve obtained a three-dimensional view of an exploded star that confirms computer models of what happens in an exploding supernova.

Scientists using the La Silla, Chile telescope of the European Southern Observatory say the image of the innermost material thrown out by the exploding star shows the supernova must have been very turbulent at the moment of its explosion, observatory officials said in release Wednesday.


When the supernova SN 19878A was observed in 1987, it was the first naked-eye supernova seen for 383 years, giving astronomers the chance to study the explosion of a massive star and its aftermath in more detail than ever before.

Images show the explosion was stronger and faster in some directions than others, leading to an irregular shape with some parts stretching out further into space.

“Just how a supernova explodes is not very well understood, but the way the star exploded is imprinted on this (ejected) inner material,” astronomer Karina Kjaer said.

“We can see that this material was not ejected symmetrically in all directions, but rather seems to have had a preferred direction.”

This asymmetric behavior was predicted by recent computer models of supernovae, which said large-scale instabilities would take place during the explosion.

The new observations are the first direct confirmation of such models, astronomers say.

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