A new kind of supernova

Who wants to be normal and run with the crowd? Not this proud-to-be-me supernova.

W49B is a supernova remnant that may be home to the galaxy’s newest black hole, but that’s not what makes it interesting. When W49B’s predecessor star exploded 1,000 years ago and 26,000 light years away, it created a very unique pattern.

Typically, supernovae spread out uniformly, creating  a perfect bubble with a heterogeneous composition. But W49 doesn’t do that. It stretches and bulges out in unpredictable ways, and while silicon and sulfur within are spread out more or less evenly, only half of the bubble contains iron.

As far as astronomers know this is the first irregular supernova of its kind. What they think happened is that as the star was exploding, jets of materials were moving away much faster at its poles than across the rest of its surface. The result is a new black hole… and one gorgeous supernova remnant.

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