What does a star look like just before it explodes? Scientists have been asking this question for a long time — and thanks to the efforts of a self-taught astronomer from Argentina, they're one step closer to the answer.
Victor Buso, a locksmith from the Argentine city of Rosario, managed to capture an image of a rare, momentary celestial phenomenon known as a "shock breakout." It's the moment that marks the transition from a star into a supernova — something that scientists have theorized about but never actually witnessed before.
During a shock breakout, energy travels from the core of the star to its outer edge, creating a burst of light that directly precedes the star's explosion. Buso happened to be in his self-constructed observatory on Sept. 20, 2016, taking images of the night sky, when he noticed an extra blip of light in his pictures that didn't match up with any known celestial body. After confirming his suspicion that the bright spot was a shock breakout with another amateur stargazer, the two alerted professionals and sent along what they had seen. The discovery was finally published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
Buso's findings could help to answer "the fundamental question," said Melina Bersten, the lead author of the report: "What is the structure of the star at the moment of explosion?" Bersten added that Buso had only about a 1 in 10 million chance of capturing an image of a shock breakout like he did. Read more about the discovery at The Washington Post.