Get those sunglasses ready.
For the first time ever, scientists at NASA have seen the glorious flash of an exploding star's shockwave.
Using the Kepler Space Telescope, researchers searched 500 distant galaxies over three years, "hunting for signs of massive stellar death explosions known as supernovae," NASA said.
Researchers found two exploding stars, called KSN 2011a and KSN 2011d. The first is roughly 300 times the size of our sun and 700 million light years from Earth. The second is approximately 500 times the size of our sun and about 1.2 billion light years away.
“To put their size into perspective, Earth's orbit about our sun would fit comfortably within these colossal stars,” Peter Garnavich, who leads the research team, said in a NASA press release.
When a massive star runs out of fuel for nuclear reactions, gravity collapses its core. This sends out a shockwave of energy, resulting in the bright flash that scientists call the "shock breakout." The phenomenon lasts only about 20 minutes.
In this case, just the larger star -- KSN 2011d -- delivered a shock breakout. NASA posted an animation to YouTube that shows the increasing brightness of KSN 2011d's explosion.
Brad Tucker of the Australian National University told Discovery News that "the physics have been around for decades," but this is the first time scientists have seen the shockwave in normal visible colors.
"All heavy elements in the universe come from supernova explosions. For example, all the silver, nickel, and copper in the earth and even in our bodies came from the explosive death throes of stars," Steve Howell, project scientist for NASA's Kepler and K2 missions at the agency's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, said in the NASA release. "Life exists because of supernovae."