We Can't Tear Our Eyes From NASA's First Supernova GIF

GIF: Courtesy of NASA.
Scientists at NASA just caught an amazing first: the bursting of a supernova.

In case you don't know what a supernova is, it's the explosion of a star. It's also the biggest kind of explosion that can happen in space (at least that we know of). What NASA caught is the initial part of that process, which is called the “shock breakout," something that has never before been captured in the visible light spectrum. The images, which NASA conveniently compiled as a GIF, are downright mesmerizing.

NASA was able to capture this astronomical phenomenon
for the very first time thanks to an extremely involved process that took three years of detailed work. Using the Kepler telescope, a team of scientists has been recording light from 500 galaxies every 30 minutes for the past three years. (We told you it was a lot of work.) Looking at over 50 trillion stars in these images, the scientists searched for signs of supernovae. Finally, in 2011, they captured not one, but two: a supernova called KSN 2011d, which was roughly 500 times as large as the sun, and another dubbed KSN 2011a, which was nearly 300 times the size of our sun and 700 million light years from Earth.

NASA captured the 20-minute (earth time) explosion of KSN 2011, despite it being 1.2 billion light years from Earth. You can view the explosion below.

Of the event, NASA writes, "Supernovae like these — known as Type II — begin when the internal furnace of a star runs out of nuclear fuel, causing its core to collapse as gravity takes over."

Catching images of this event will help NASA scientists enhance their understanding of a star's life cycle. We non-scientists of the world will just be over here completely hypnotized by the footage.

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