Nasa sees a star exploding for the first time, shown in huge video from Kepler space telescope

The 20-minute-long explosion happened 1.2 billion light years away – and could offer hints about the very foundations of the universe

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 23 March 2016 15:57
NASA captures footage of an exploding star for the first time

Scientists have spotted an exploding star for the first ever time, giving people a chance to watch a never-before-seen shockwave ripple out across the universe.

The huge explosions, which lasted for just 20 minutes, could offer a new chance to understand the very beginnings of our universe, and of humanity.

The pioneering spot shows two stars exploding, in an event that was captured by the Kepler space telescope in 2011. The footage shows the star’s “death explosions” – the shockwaves or “shock breakout” that are thrown out when a star dies.

As that happens, the star explodes in a huge, bright flash. It then burns huge and bright – as bright as a galaxy – for two weeks before fading into darkness.

The Kepler space telescope spotted the flash as part of its work looking deep into the universe to attempt to find new planets. But finding it was much more difficult – because the explosion could happen anywhere in the sky, and lasts for such a short period of time, the only way that it can be spotted is by training a telescope like Kepler to look out for it.

Scientists now hope that they can use the information to understand more about supernova explosions. Those huge events are the source of some of the most important materials in the universe, and were central in forming the elements that power all of life on Earth.

"All heavy elements in the universe come from supernova explosions. For example, all the silver, nickel and copper in the Earth and even in our bodies came from the explosive death throes of stars," said Steve Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission, in a statement.

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