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Advanced telescope lets NASA see inside supernovas

Staff Writer
Austin 360

There's a breakthrough in the mystery of supernovas. Using a new telescope, NASA says it now knows the inside story on the explosions that happen within. (Via Nature)

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR for short, shows that a cocktail of radioactive gases and elements literally "sloshes" around the belly of a star before it explodes, similar to how bubbles rise in boiling water. (Via NASA)

The state-of-the-art telescope, developed by NASA and the California Institute of Technology, looked at the ever-expanding remnants of Cassiopeia A, a star that went supernova 11,000 years ago.

Scientists were dumbfounded as to why computer simulations of supernova explosions sometimes didn't play out like the real thing. The telescope revealed a previously invisible element, titanium-44, powering it all, thrilling NASA astrophysicist Paul Hertz.

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"This is why we built NuSTAR, to discover things we never knew - and did not expect - about the high-energy universe." (Via California Institute of Technology)

It's the satellite telescope's biggest discovery since it launched in mid-2012, and NASA says the results were unlike anything they had predicted.

"This is actually a very good reason why you build instruments and try to go into new energy bands, to get new discovery space, you have things that you didn't expect to see before." (ViaNASA)

The discovery could help scientists finally nail down the supernova, an essential ingredient to life in the universe. When a star explodes, it creates elements such as gold, calcium and others by fusion. "Without dead stars, the universe would probably still be made of just hydrogen and helum gas," according to the Los Angeles Times

Next up for NASA and NuSTAR? Exploring supermassive black holes.

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