For the first time, scientists have seen the shock wave emanating from an exploding star in visible light.
Using NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope, researchers saw the shock wave coming from a massive star explosion (a supernova) that came into Kepler’s view in 2011. The star that ended its life as a supernova is named KSN 2011d, which is nearly 500 times the diameter of the sun, and located about 1.2 billion light-years away.
The shock breakout lasted only about 20 minutes, so Kepler’s ability to catch a glimpse of this event is “an investigative milestone for astronomers,” NASA said. At the time Kepler observed the explosion, the telescope was gazing continuously at a point in the Cygnus constellation, looking for extrasolar planets. The shock wave observation will give investigators more information into how these shock waves are formed from stellar explosions.