Image of the Day: Sloshing supernova

Imagine a supernova. Got it? Good. If you're anything like professional astronomers, you're imagining a nice, pretty, spherical catastrophically massive explosion.

As tidy as that sounds, that's not exactly how a supernova works, as we've discovered that it's much more, um, sloshy. Sloshy? Sloshy:

"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," said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. "Our new results show how the explosion's heart, or engine, is distorted, possibly because the inner regions literally slosh around before detonating."

The picture above is of Cassiopeia A, a relatively young supernova remnant. NuSTAR was able to get enough of a detailed image to allow scientists to study the distribution of heavy elements (like titanium) created during the supernova itself, from which they were able to create a rather nifty model of the explosion, which you can watch in the video below.

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