Astronomers have a reasonably good handle on what happens during a supernova, an immense stellar detonation that occurs when a massive star that’s run out of fuel collapses and explodes with the brightness of 10 billion suns . These events are relatively rare, with just one or two each year, on average, in a galaxy the size of our Milky Way. While the math and physics of a supernova explosion are reasonably well understood, it’s up to visual artists and computer-generated imagery (CGI) experts to help us visualize a supernova explosion in all its glorious violence and complexity.
But the artist Thomas Vanz took a different approach. He used old-fashioned visual effects such as dispersing ink in water in an aquarium, creative lighting, holes in napkins, and clever photography to simulate the appearance of a supernova from the moments before the collapse of the star’s core into a black hole, to the ejection of the outer layers of the star and the resulting nebula caused by the compression of gas in the interstellar medium. It’s darned impressive work. He’s entitled the video of this simulation Novae, and he writes of this piece, “As a tribute to Kubrick or Nolan’s filmography, Novae is a cosmic poem that wants to introduce the viewer to the nebulae’s infinite beauty”.
There’s been no visible supernovae in our galaxy since 1604, and none visible to the unaided eye since the magnificent supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud appeared in 1987. But you can see remnants of supernovae in the form of delicate arcing nebulae scattered here and there across the sky. One of the most beautiful, and certainly my personal favorite, is the multi-sectional Veil Nebula in the constellation Cygnus. With a the right optics and a little skill, you can see this nebula for yourself on most clear and moonless nights.Share This: