Scientists Say: Supernova

This is what happens when a star explodes

g11 supernova

These wild colors are the remains of a supernova named G11.2-0.3.

X-ray: NASA/CXC/NCSU/K. Borkowski et al; Optical: DSS

Supernova (noun, “SOO-per-no-va”)

This what happens when a star blows up. From the Earth, a supernova looks like a star that has suddenly become extremely bright. That increase in brightness occurs because the star has exploded and thrust most of its mass into space.

Supernovas come in two types. The first occurs in a binary system — where two stars orbit a point between them. One star may steal mass from the other. When it steals too much, it can explode into a supernova.

The other type of supernova happens when a single star runs out of fuel. As it does, its mass concentrates in its core. When there’s too much mass in the middle, the star will explode. 

In a sentence

This star was caught burping out clouds of gas before it became a supernova.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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