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Supernova

A supernova is a violent stellar explosion that can shine as brightly as an entire galaxy of billions of normal stars. Astronomers divide supernovae into two primary groups: Type Ia and Type II. Type Ia supernovae form as a white dwarf “steals” hot gas from a companion star. If enough gas piles up on the surface of the white dwarf, a runaway thermonuclear explosion blasts the star to bits, leaving nothing behind. These are the brightest supernovae, and can be used to measure the distances to other galaxies. A Type II supernova is the final stage in the evolution of a star that is at least eight times as massive as the Sun. Such a star reaches a point where it can no longer produce nuclear energy in its core. Without the outward pressure created by this energy, gravity wins out and causes the star’s core to collapse to form a neutron star or black hole. The star’s outer layers “rebound” violently, blasting into space at several percent of the speed of light.

Radio Programs

More Cassiopeia A A little blast hides a big blast January 3, 2018

Cassiopeia A A dead star that’s bright but invisible January 2, 2018

Pulsars II “Dead” stars that spin like crazy November 28, 2017

Rho Cassiopeia Practicing for a big blast November 22, 2017

Future Blast A future blast from a galactic neighbor October 27, 2017

Feedback Slowing down the stellar birth rate September 8, 2017

Zone of Death A cosmic “zone of death” August 31, 2017

Hyperactive Galaxy A galaxy with lots of fireworks August 22, 2017

Sigma Scorpii Impressive stars near the scorpion’s heart July 30, 2017

Alpha Lupi A bright star with a brighter future July 7, 2017

More Northern Crown The “re-death” of two dead stars May 28, 2017

Spying on Supernovae Keeping many eyes on exploding stars May 22, 2017

Moon and Spica Different fates for stellar siblings May 8, 2017

Making Elements IV Violent alchemy in the stars March 9, 2017

Supernova 1987A III Keeping an eye on a dead star February 24, 2017

Supernova 1987A II Catching “ghosts” from an exploding star February 23, 2017

Supernova 1987A Looking for a hidden star February 22, 2017

Neutron Stars Crushing the core of a mighty star February 20, 2017

Super Supernovae II Explaining a brilliant explosion January 17, 2017

Super Supernovae Making a super-duper supernova January 16, 2017

Betelgeuse Explodes Death gets closer for a giant star December 30, 2016

Cosmic Rays The calling cards of exploding stars November 28, 2016

Explosive Debris Heavy “rains” from exploding stars August 22, 2016

The Stinger Getting a “sting” from the scorpion July 23, 2016

Bright and Brighter Boosting the “boom” of an exploding star June 7, 2016

Puppis Breaking up a mighty ship March 26, 2016

Stellar Whopper The brightest of the bright March 22, 2016

Aludra The showiest “dog” star of all January 13, 2016

The Dog’s Tail The big dog wags its tail — after this. January 12, 2016

Crab Nebula A crab scuttles across the sky December 14, 2015

Eta Carinae Impressive stellar siblings October 19, 2015

More Andromeda Galaxy Getting ready to put on a show September 16, 2015

Making a Magnetar Making a powerful magnet August 5, 2015

Doomed Stars Two stars with a bright future June 16, 2015

Small but Bright Tiny stars put on brilliant displays June 15, 2015

Two Ways to Die Two ways to make a supernova June 14, 2015

MY Camelopardalis A brilliant duet for the giraffe March 14, 2015

Bright Paw The big dog’s brilliant paw February 12, 2015

Morning Moon A bright future for the scorpion February 11, 2015

Iron Ironing out a heavy element February 4, 2015

Featured Images

X-ray view of Cassiopeia A

It's Elemental January 2, 2018

The Crescent Nebula

Colorful Demise December 14, 2017

pulsar schematic

Busy Corpse November 27, 2017

Combined X-ray and optical image of a supernova remnant

Zone of Death August 31, 2017

Multi-wavelength view of NGC 6946, the Fireworks Galaxy

Fireworks Factory August 23, 2017

Structure of a massive star shortly before it explodes as a supernova

Stellar Onion March 9, 2017

Composite image of Supernova 1987A

Brilliant Dead Star February 22, 2017

Cosmic ray shower

Cosmic Showers November 28, 2016

Hubble view of the Crab Nebula

Spectacular Crab December 14, 2015

Artist's concept of MY Camelopardalis, a contact binary star system

Close Twins March 15, 2015

Artist's concept of Supernova 1987A

Time Bomb April 23, 2014

Hot Dust January 7, 2014

The Pencil Nebula, a portion of the giant Vela Supernova Remnant

Blast from the Past April 4, 2013

A supernova remnant in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Double Suicide? April 9, 2012

Hubble Space Telescope images of the aftermath of Supernova 1987A

Wave of Destruction February 23, 2012

Hubble Space Telescope image of the aftermath of Supernova 1987A

Stellar Ghost February 21, 2012