A computer animation of a gamma-ray burst / supernova viewed from a distance.
This blue Wolf-Rayet star -- containing about 10 solar masses worth of helium, oxygen and heavier elements -- has depleted its nuclear fuel. This has triggered a Type Ic supernova / gamma-ray burst event.
Here we see a blinding flash of light as the shell of the star explodes. Over the course of many years, a supernova remnant emerges (as represented by the fiery reddish cloud of gas surrounding the newly formed central black hole or neutron star). A shock wave (represented by an egg-shaped shell) is created by the expanding gases.
Scientists say the gamma-ray burst detected on March 29, 2003, was associated with a hypernova, which is more energetic and expands more rapidly than a supernova does.