NASA researchers analyzing data captured by Kepler space telescope have discovered on a rare phenomenon. For the first time, shockwaves of an exploding giant star have been captured in visible light wavelengths. For astronomers, the shockwaves are called “shock breakout.”
It has been a grueling activity for the team of international scientists studying Kepler’s data captured between 2011 and 2013. They have been analyzing light captured by Kepler Space telescope every 30 minutes and searching through 50 trillion stars. The data covers 500 distant galaxies.
The primary reason behind the analysis was to find evidence of a massive star explosion, which astronomers call supernova. After years of massive data crunching, the researchers have found what they were looking for –a shock breakout that is unmistakably from the disintegration of a supergiant star.
The researchers described their finding in Astrophysical Journal.
Explosion of two stars, only one registered well
The NASA scientists looking through Kepler’s data actually identified two massive star explosions. The first star exploded more than 700 million light years away from Earth and its size was 300 times that of our sun. They identified that first star as KSN 2011a.
The second star was mightier than the first one. It was 500 times the size of our sun and its explosion happened 1.2 billion light years from Earth. The researchers identified the second star was KSN 2011d.
It was the shock breakout of KSN 2011d that was cleared by Kepler.
What causes star explosions?
The nature of supergiant star explosion captured on Kepler has been categorized by the scientists as Type II. It results from the collapse of a star’s core. The collapse itself is due to gravity. The disintegration process of a massive star starts when its internal furnace runs out of nuclear fuel. That results in a huge explosion that marks the death of the start.
Capturing the events of a dying star is a rare occurrence, which is why the researchers are fascinated by their findings.
Source of heavy elements
When a massive star explodes, it gives off heavy metals such as copper, silver and nickel. Therefore, scientists believe that supernovae are an important reason life exists.