Supernovae are among the most dramatic events in nature. A star undergoes a thermonuclear explosion and within a few seconds produces a total energy flux comparable to that of an entire galaxy.

Computer simulations are beginning to catch the essential features of these events. Recently, a large Chicago-led simulation showed an attractive new mechanism for one kind of supernova. 1 Previous calculations have often been done for spherically symmetrical situations in which the event is triggered by a heating event in the center of the star. The new calculations look at off-center triggering, which sends a very asymmetrical blob of hot material rising up through the star. At the point where the bubble surfaces, outer stellar layers are strongly accelerated, fly over the star surfaces, and then come together on the opposite side of the star. That focus then forms the center of the resulting explosion.

This entire sequence has...

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