Science: Spectacle Of Cosmic Surprises

New data from an exploding star keep astronomers puzzled

"It's a gorgeous red object against the silver gray of the Large Magellanic Cloud," said Robert Garrison of the University of Toronto. Ever since it burst into view in the southern hemisphere on Feb. 23, Supernova 1987A, the brightest exploding star in 383 years, has fascinated astronomers and astrophysicists. Its surprising behavior has prompted them to rethink how massive stars evolve and what forces rage within them. "This is how science is done," said an exultant Garrison. "There is discovery, then wild speculation, then a settling of accounts."

Last week, as 700 members of the American Astronomical Society met in Vancouver...