Researchers have finally witnessed, in visible light wavelengths, the “shock breakout” of a supernova—the exact moment when the expanding blast wave from a vanishing star lastly explodes the outer stellar layers and makes its outstanding entry onto the cosmic stage. The recent supernova results signify the proverbial needle in a haystack—an international group of researcher examined 3 years’ worth of data, in which Kepler taken pictures every other 30 minutes of some 50 trillion stars dispersed amid 500 remote galaxies.
The researchers ultimately discovered two supernova blasts. Two red supergiants, similar to Betelgeuse or Antares in the Milky Way Galaxy, exploded while Kepler’s unblinking eye was looking right at it. The first exploded star, KSN 2011a, was nearly 300 times the size of our Sun and was situated in a galaxy some 700 million light-years away; the second, KSN 2011d, was nearly 500 times the size of the Sun and was sited over 1.2 billion light-years away.
Peter Garnavich, professor of astrophysics at the University of Notre Dame and also a member of the research team, explains “To put their size into perspective, Earth’s orbit about our Sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars,”
This particular discovery is considered as a breakthrough in observational astronomy, since this breakout shockwaves of such supernovae—called Type II, or “core collapse” supernovae—last merely 20 minutes.
The light signatures conferred accordingly with mathematical calculations, however the smaller explosion lacked the shock breakout of the larger, possibly because the minor star was covered in a layer of gas.