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Illuminated Universe

The Red Bubble

13 Jun 2019, 13:00 UTC
The Red Bubble
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A supernova explosion is a staggering event to imagine. At the core of an evolved star, runaway nuclear processes release a tremendous amount of energy in a fraction of a second. The mass of the star is blown apart at speeds of millions of miles per hour. A vast shock wave streams across interstellar space, followed by the blast wave of stellar material heated to millions of degrees. Within hundreds to thousands of years, the remains of the dense, compact star spreads into a vast nebula spanning tens of light-years: a supernova remnant.
Because the energy of a supernova is created in one place, the general shape of the explosion should be roughly spherical. However, given its energetic nature, one also expects that it will involve considerable chaotic turbulence. There are asymmetries in the star due to rotation. The star’s environment may involve a companion star or an encompassing disk of gas and dust. The material in interstellar space has widely varying density and pressure. All of these factors will subtly, but distinctly, distort the motion, shape, and density of the gas in a supernova remnant.

The standard idea of a supernova remnant is a rounded shape, with strong bubbly ...

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