SLAC Public Lecture Series
Supernova Shock Waves: Powerhouses of the Galaxy
An exploding star, or supernova, is one of the most violent events in the universe, giving off a billion stars' worth of light. Even thousands of years later, the remnants of these explosions are among the most beautiful and mysterious objects in the cosmos--enormous balls of high-energy particles and strong magnetic fields, confined by the expanding shock wave from the original explosion. To understand the true nature of supernova remnants, scientists examine them in a wide range of wavelengths, from visible light to radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. New observations with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope show how supernova remnants act as giant particle accelerators--much more powerful than the biggest ones on Earth--to produce the high-energy cosmic rays that fill the galaxy.