Supernova's Beginning Blast Shown in 3-D—A First

The mysterious first moments of a huge star's demise have now been modeled in 3-D, offering the best peek yet at what triggers the explosions.

The mysterious first moments of a supernova have now been modeled in 3-D—showing what happens in a dying star's heart from half a second to about two hours after the blast begins.

The development could help scientists eventually "rewind" the leftovers of real cataclysmic star explosions to find out how they get started and why their leftovers assume a variety of shapes. (See supernova pictures.)

"These are the first three-dimensional models linking the beginning of the explosion to the supernova structure we see hours later," said study co-author Hans-Thomas Janka, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Garching, Germany.

The new simulations also give the best peek yet at the prime suspect in the mystery of what kills big stars from the inside out: a torrential spasm of ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos.

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