Supernovae

What is a star?

Although most of us were told that stars are a big ball of gas, stars are a ball of plasma being held by its own gravity.  The closest star to Earth is the Sun, it is estimated that it is 4.6 BILLION years old. It is currently almost half way through its life span, being estimated that it will live for another 5.4 billion years before turning into another something else know as a white dwarf.

What is a super nova?

A supernova is an astronomical event in which a titanic explosion happens in the last stage of a big star. Why and how does this happen though? Throughout most of its life, a star maintains a delicate balance between the inward force of its own gravity and the outward force of pressure created by fusion. If this balance is disturbed a star will collapse.

Very massive stars can fuse elements up until iron. Once a star begins fusing iron, this absorbs energy rather than releasing it. There is no longer any energy being released to support the star, so the core collapses under its own weight as the outer layers explode violently outward. This is a supernova. For a short time, this causes the sudden appearance of a ‘new’ bright star, before slowly fading from sight over several weeks or months.

(Written by Ramzi Hammoudeh)

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