Shock Breakout Visualized

I just released a post about the Kepler Space Telescope and its observation of the shock breakout of an exploding star, the exact moment when it’s considered a supernova.  Further to this I wanted to show some of the great visualizations of the event, and to show you just how energetic and luminous a supernova really is, compared to our Sun.


The video shows the shock breakout, the bright flash lasting an hour, before the star rapidly increases in brightness to it’s maximum.  Not shown is the gradual fading of the supernova, which can take days or even weeks.

To put it all in perspective, here’s a plot showing the same brightening of the massive star with the shock breakout, compared to the Sun.

Supernova unfolding. Credits: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel

The shock breakout pales in comparison to the peak brightness of the supernova, yet it is still as luminous as 130 million suns.  It communicates the raw power of a supernova, and you can understand that learning about the shock breakout is an important part of understanding how a supernova works, something we don’t know entirely.

But the excitement of scientific discovery is alive when it comes to supernovae.

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