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Concept: Explosion


It is difficult to establish the properties of massive stars that explode as supernovae. The electromagnetic emission during the first minutes to hours after the emergence of the shock from the stellar surface conveys important information about the final evolution and structure of the exploding star. However, the unpredictable nature of supernova events hinders the detection of this brief initial phase. Here we report the serendipitous discovery of a newly born, normal type IIb supernova (SN 2016gkg), which reveals a rapid brightening at optical wavelengths of about 40 magnitudes per day. The very frequent sampling of the observations allowed us to study in detail the outermost structure of the progenitor of the supernova and the physics of the emergence of the shock. We develop hydrodynamical models of the explosion that naturally account for the complete evolution of the supernova over distinct phases regulated by different physical processes. This result suggests that it is appropriate to decouple the treatment of the shock propagation from the unknown mechanism that triggers the explosion.

Concepts: Light, Sun, Supernova, Shock wave, Star, Explosion, Implosion


Analysis of data, recorded on March 8th 2014 at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation’s hydroacoustic stations off Cape Leeuwin Western Australia, and at Diego Garcia, reveal unique pressure signatures that could be associated with objects impacting at the sea surface, such as falling meteorites, or the missing Malaysian Aeroplane MH370. To examine the recorded signatures, we carried out experiments with spheres impacting at the surface of a water tank, where we observed almost identical pressure signature structures. While the pressure structure is unique to impacting objects, the evolution of the radiated acoustic waves carries information on the source. Employing acoustic-gravity wave theory we present an analytical inverse method to retrieve the impact time and location. The solution was validated using field observations of recent earthquakes, where we were able to calculate the eruption time and location to a satisfactory degree of accuracy. Moreover, numerical validations confirm an error below 0.02% for events at relatively large distances of over 1000 km. The method can be developed to calculate other essential properties such as impact duration and geometry. Besides impacting objects and earthquakes, the method could help in identifying the location of underwater explosions and landslides.

Concepts: Scientific method, Fundamental physics concepts, Structure, Wave, Hypothesis, Acoustics, Impact event, Explosion


The origin of dust in galaxies is still a mystery. The majority of the refractory elements are produced in supernova explosions, but it is unclear how and where dust grains condense and grow, and how they avoid destruction in the harsh environments of star-forming galaxies. The recent detection of 0.1 to 0.5 solar masses of dust in nearby supernova remnants suggests in situ dust formation, while other observations reveal very little dust in supernovae in the first few years after explosion. Observations of the spectral evolution of the bright SN 2010jl have been interpreted as pre-existing dust, dust formation or no dust at all. Here we report the rapid (40 to 240 days) formation of dust in its dense circumstellar medium. The wavelength-dependent extinction of this dust reveals the presence of very large (exceeding one micrometre) grains, which resist destruction. At later times (500 to 900 days), the near-infrared thermal emission shows an accelerated growth in dust mass, marking the transition of the dust source from the circumstellar medium to the ejecta. This provides the link between the early and late dust mass evolution in supernovae with dense circumstellar media.

Concepts: Galaxy, Sun, Supernova, Solar System, Star, Interstellar medium, Supernovae, Explosion


Some observations suggest that very massive stars experience extreme mass-loss episodes shortly before they explode as supernovae, as do several models. Establishing a causal connection between these mass-loss episodes and the final explosion would provide a novel way to study pre-supernova massive-star evolution. Here we report observations of a mass-loss event detected 40 days before the explosion of the type IIn supernova SN 2010mc (also known as PTF 10tel). Our photometric and spectroscopic data suggest that this event is a result of an energetic outburst, radiating at least 6 × 10(47) erg of energy and releasing about 10(-2) solar masses of material at typical velocities of 2,000 km s(-1). The temporal proximity of the mass-loss outburst and the supernova explosion implies a causal connection between them. Moreover, we find that the outburst luminosity and velocity are consistent with the predictions of the wave-driven pulsation model, and disfavour alternative suggestions.

Concepts: Energy, Galaxy, Supernova, Mass, Star, Neutron star, Silicon burning process, Explosion


To investigate anecdotal reports suggesting that repeated exposure to low-level explosive blast has myriad health impacts, including an array of neurological effects.

Concepts: Medicine, Anecdotal evidence, Explosion


The death of massive stars is believed to involve aspheric explosions initiated by the collapse of an iron core. The specifics of these catastrophic explosions remain uncertain, due partly to limited observational constraints on asymmetries deep inside the star. Here we present near-infrared observations of the young supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, descendant of a type IIb core-collapse explosion, and a three-dimensional map of its interior unshocked ejecta. The remnant’s interior has a bubble-like morphology that smoothly connects to and helps explain the multiringed structures seen in the remnant’s bright reverse-shocked main shell of expanding debris. This internal structure may originate from turbulent mixing processes that encouraged outwardly expanding plumes of radioactive (56)Ni-rich ejecta. If this is true, substantial amounts of its decay product, (56)Fe, may still reside in these interior cavities.

Concepts: Sun, Supernova, Supernova remnant, Star, Interstellar medium, Neutron star, Explosion, Cassiopeia A


Asymmetry is required by most numerical simulations of stellar core-collapse explosions, but the form it takes differs significantly among models. The spatial distribution of radioactive (44)Ti, synthesized in an exploding star near the boundary between material falling back onto the collapsing core and that ejected into the surrounding medium, directly probes the explosion asymmetries. Cassiopeia A is a young, nearby, core-collapse remnant from which (44)Ti emission has previously been detected but not imaged. Asymmetries in the explosion have been indirectly inferred from a high ratio of observed (44)Ti emission to estimated (56)Ni emission, from optical light echoes, and from jet-like features seen in the X-ray and optical ejecta. Here we report spatial maps and spectral properties of the (44)Ti in Cassiopeia A. This may explain the unexpected lack of correlation between the (44)Ti and iron X-ray emission, the latter being visible only in shock-heated material. The observed spatial distribution rules out symmetric explosions even with a high level of convective mixing, as well as highly asymmetric bipolar explosions resulting from a fast-rotating progenitor. Instead, these observations provide strong evidence for the development of low-mode convective instabilities in core-collapse supernovae.

Concepts: Scientific method, Optics, Light, Supernova, Explosion, Cassiopeia A, Halifax Explosion, Light echo


The explosive fate of massive Wolf-Rayet stars (WRSs) is a key open question in stellar physics. An appealing option is that hydrogen-deficient WRSs are the progenitors of some hydrogen-poor supernova explosions of types IIb, Ib and Ic (ref. 2). A blue object, having luminosity and colours consistent with those of some WRSs, has recently been identified in pre-explosion images at the location of a supernova of type Ib (ref. 3), but has not yet been conclusively determined to have been the progenitor. Similar work has so far only resulted in non-detections. Comparison of early photometric observations of type Ic supernovae with theoretical models suggests that the progenitor stars had radii of less than 10(12) centimetres, as expected for some WRSs. The signature of WRSs, their emission line spectra, cannot be probed by such studies. Here we report the detection of strong emission lines in a spectrum of type IIb supernova 2013cu (iPTF13ast) obtained approximately 15.5 hours after explosion (by ‘flash spectroscopy’, which captures the effects of the supernova explosion shock breakout flash on material surrounding the progenitor star). We identify Wolf-Rayet-like wind signatures, suggesting a progenitor of the WN(h) subclass (those WRSs with winds dominated by helium and nitrogen, with traces of hydrogen). The extent of this dense wind may indicate increased mass loss from the progenitor shortly before its explosion, consistent with recent theoretical predictions.

Concepts: Supernova, Black hole, Star, Interstellar medium, Supernovae, Explosion, Wolf-Rayet star, Type Ib and Ic supernovae


Throughout the course of a forensic investigation following an explosive attack, the identification and recovery of tissue fragments is of extreme importance. There are few universally accepted methods to achieve this end. This project aims to explore this issue through the examination of the spatial distribution of the tissue fragments resulting from an explosive event. To address this, a two stage pilot study was conducted: first, a series of controlled explosions on porcine carcases was undertaken. Second, the data produced from these explosions were used to chart the spatial distribution of the tissue debris. In the controlled explosions, 3kg military grade explosive was chosen to create the maximum amount of fragmentation; this level of explosive also prevented the complete disappearance of forensic evidence through evaporation. Additionally, the blast created by military grade explosive is highly powerful and would mean that the maximum possible distance was achieved and would therefore allow the recorded distances and pattern spread to be a guideline for forensic recovery of associated with an explosive amount of an unknown size and quality. A total station was employed to record the location of the resulting forensic evidence, with the collected data analysed using R Studio. The observed patterns suggested that the distribution of remains is fairly consistent in trials under similar environmental conditions. This indicates potential for some general guidelines for forensic evidence collection (for example, the distance from the explosion that a search should cover).

Concepts: Fragment, Distance, Spread Toolkit, BLAST, Explosion


A reliable, scalable, cost-effective, and chromatography-free synthesis of 4-azido-L-phenylalanine beginning from L-phenylalanine is described. Investigations into the safety of the synthesis reveal that the Ullman-like Cu(I)-catalyzed azidation step does not represent a significant risk. The isolated 4-azido-L-phenylalanine product, however, exhibits previously undocumented explosive characteristics.

Concepts: Explosive material, Explosion