Simulation of the cataclysmic supernova SN1987A

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Simulation of the cataclysmic supernova SN1987A

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  Last updated February 21, 2018 at 11:02 am

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This is a simulation showing how the supernova SN1987A evolved between 1989 and 2014. Its name is a combination of SN – meaning supernova, and 1987 – the year this supernova was first discovered. The cataclysmic explosion occurred 169,000 light years from Earth – close enough to see with the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere.


SN1987A is one of the most studied supernova events in recent history.


The model shows that one side of the shock front expands more quickly than the other. This faster expanding side generates more radio emissions than its weaker counterpart.


Simulations are used to test theories; astronomers can key in what they already know about the object in the sky, and then test different theories using computer modelling. When you observe the real supernova in the sky, you only view a snapshot in time and cannot control the image through rotation, panning, or zooming. Simulations allow us to manipulate the astronomical event and learn more about it.


Simulation by Dr Toby Potter, Visualisation by Dr Rick Newton



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ICRAR is an institute of astronomers, engineers and big data specialists supporting the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope. ICRAR is an equal joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia, with funding support from the State Government of Western Australia.