Hah, made ya look! While we probably won’t be including “star blowing up” on our list of things to do on Spring Break, NASA did announce that, thanks to new studies using X-ray and ultraviolet observations from the agency’s Swift satellite, its scientists have learned exactly what it takes to cause a star to blow up.
“For all their importance, it’s a bit embarrassing for astronomers that we don’t know fundamental facts about the environs of these supernovae,” said Stefan Immler, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Now, thanks to unprecedented X-ray and ultraviolet data from Swift, we have a clearer picture of what’s required to blow up these stars.”
The type of supernova NASA now knows how to spark, a Type Ia supernova, releases explosions that “can outshine their galaxy for weeks and release large and consistent amounts of energy at visible wavelengths.” Evan Ackerman at DVICE made some sense out of NASA’s discovery for the terrestrials: “Type Ia supernovae are a specific type of stellar explosion that are very, very important because astronomers can use them as what’s called “standard candles.” Given that, standard candles are uniquely valuable because they have a known and consistent luminosity that can then be used in to determine the distance of between celestial objects.
So here’s something: if scientists are learning what causes the obliteration of stars even in the current financial state of NASA, just imagine what spectacular achievements we’d be making if the U.S. federal government didn’t keep hacking away at the agency’s budget.