Kepler reveals light from an exploding star

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When a star explodes astronomers have theorized that a shockwave of light would be sent out from the explosion followed by the material of the star afterwards. An international science team announced the first ever observation of the light coming from an exploding star in the visible light spectrum. The “Shock Breakout” was observed by the Kepler mission coming from the star KSN 2011d.

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Image Credit: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel

The data that we observed of the star can be viewed to the right. On the graph you can see the light from the star that was continuously observed was roughly at 20,000 times brighter than the sun. Once the explosion was observed the brightness level increased suddenly to 130,000,000 times brighter than the sun and went back down to slowly increase to brightness levels much greater than that. This sudden increase is the Shock Breakout of light that is observed right after the explosion of the star.

This observation is so rare because the shock breakout lasts only about 20 minutes so observing the right star during the right window of time is difficult. Kepler also observed a supernova of a similar star called KSN 2011a that did not have the Shock Breakout that KSN 2011d did which is still leaving some of the astronomers with more questions but it is still one more step closer to understanding our universe.

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