New research suggests studying the shape of the aftermath of supernovas (exploding stars) may allow astronomers to figure out what caused them (before the same thing happens to our sun?)

A new study of images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory on supernova remnants (the debris left over from these explosions) shows that the symmetry of the remnants, or lack thereof, reveals HOW the star exploded, even though hundreds or thousands of years have passed. Astronomer Laura Lopez says, “It’s almost like the supernova remnants have a ‘memory’ of the original explosion.”

Her study is based on the shape of the pieces of debris, which are now floating in space, where they can be photographed by space cameras like Hubble. One type of supernova explosion left behind relatively symmetric, circular remnants, while other debris is distinctly more asymmetric.

Astronomer Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz says, “If we can link supernova remnants with the type of explosion, then we can use that information in theoretical models to really help us nail down the details of how the supernovas went off.” And maybe look for signs of that type of explosion in our own sun.

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