Every second, another star explodes. When it does so, it gives birth to the very metals and minerals out of which the universe is made. This we know. But until this week, the exact process by which the giant balls of fire meet their dramatic death was something of a mystery.
Thanks to Caltech and NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar), that mystery is beginning to unravel.
By using NuStar's orbiting telescopes, scientists determined that the insides of stars actually slosh around a bit before stars burst into the beautiful cosmic mess that we call a supernova. They figured this out by looking at Cassiopeia A (Cas A), a supernova produced when a star with more than eight times the mass of our own sun exploded about 11,000 years ago. Since that time, the remnants from the big blast have fanned out dramatically -- Cas A takes up 10 light years of space in the cosmos, making it visible from Earth. It is believed to have appeared in our skies in roughly 1671.… Read more