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A colorized image of Cassiopeia A based on data from the Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A powerful shock wave traveling through a cloud of gas left behind by the explosive death of a star has a bizarre quirk: Part of it is traveling in the wrong direction, a new study reveals. 

In the study, researchers found that the shock wave is accelerating at different rates, with one section collapsing back toward the origin of the stellar explosion, or supernova, in what the study authors call a “reverse shock.”  

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