NASA Telescope Reveals Mystery of How Stars Explode in Supernovas

One of the largest mysteries in astronomy - how stars blow up in supernova explosions and seed the universe with elements like gold and iron - is being resolved with the help of NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). NuSTAR has created the first map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant called Cassiopeia A, and the results reveal how shock waves likely rip apart massive dying stars. "Stars are spherical balls of gas, and so you might think that when they end their lives and explode, that explosion would look like a uniform ball expanding out with great power," says Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR at Caltech. "Our new results show how the explosion's heart, or engine, is distorted, possibly because the inner regions literally slosh around before detonating." The latest findings strongly suggest that the exploding star sloshed around, re-energizing the stalled shock wave and allowing the star to finally blast off its outer layers. This 3D computer simulation demonstrates how the supernova explosion might look.