Space’s Monster Explosions!

A Supernova is the explosion created when a star’s core suddenly collapses and explodes, destroying the star or spreading much of the stars matter out into space as fast as 30,000 km/s! Heavy elements which form the planets are seeded into the cosmos this way. Supernovas are the largest explosions in space and shine for several weeks to a few months.


Cool Facts About These Titanic Space Explosions!!

  • Supernovas are the biggest explosions in space, caused when a stars core dramatically collapses. This occurs two different ways;
    • In a binary star system where a white dwarf star gradually steals matter from the other, eventually reaching a critical point where the white dwarf has two much matter causing it to suddenly explode!
    • The other type is when a relatively large star reaches the end of its life and it has nearly exhausted all of its nuclear fuel. At this time the radiant pressure from within can no longer resist the stars gravity causing the core to collapse and rebound/explode spectacularly!
  • The star closest to Earth, the Sun, does not have enough mass to cause it to explode in a supernova at the end of its life.
  • Supernova explosions occur everywhere there are stars in the Universe. This includes the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • There have only been three supernova seen in our Milky Way Galaxy with the naked-eye over the last 1000 years of recorded history.
  • The beautiful Crab Nebula, which is a supernova remnant, was created by a supernova in 1054 AD and was the first supernova recorded by humans.
  • The most recently observed supernova in the Milky Way was seen in the year 1604!
  • Based on analysis of supernova observed occurring in other galaxies, it is believed that on average one supernova occurs in the Milky Way Galaxy every 33 years!
  • When the star goes supernova, it shoots heavy elements and debris critical for life into deep space. Many of the elements we find here on Earth are made in the core of stars! This is why some say we're made of Star Dust!
  • The shock waves from supernova explosions may travel outwards up to 30,000 km/s (10% the speed of light) and can often condense nearby nebula, potentially triggering new star formation.
  • A supernova explosion only burns brightly for a short period of time, before slowly fading away over the following weeks and months.
  • NASA scientists use different types of telescopes (observing in either visible or X-ray light) to spot and study supernovas. The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have both captured images of supernovas occurring in nearby galaxies!
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Distant Supernova - SN 1994D (the bright spot on the lower left), a type Ia supernova in the NGC 4526 galaxy. (Photo Credit: NASA/ESA)