The Death of a Real Star

by Lisa on October 13, 2009

To be honest, I can’t remember much that happened to me in grade school.  I do remember, however, I loved studying about space. Once a year in grade school, we all had the grand honor of visiting our school’s planetarium in the library. It was an inflatable igloo shaped thing, and once you crawled through the dark tunnels – industrial fans humming away in the background- you entered into the center dome and saw the awe of glow-in-the dark projections of stars.

inflatable-planetarium

This is like the one I remember from my former grade school days.  Don’t be fooled, inside it is pure astronomical enjoyment.  I blame this plastic blob for my love of stars, and so today, I bring you information about the much heard about, but little known, supernova.

A supernova is the death of a star in a big explosive way. In general, most stars die quietly and eventually fade away into lifeless celestial objects known as white dwarves and from there fade even further away until they are known as black dwarves. A supernova, on the other hand, is both big and hot enough to go out with a bang.

Now to get a bit more technical. In order for a star to explode, it must produce energy by fusing elements. The huge gravity of a star causes the formation of oxygen, silicon, phosphorous, calcium, and eventually reaches to the formation of iron. This is where it dead ends.  Iron is heavy and to burn  it requires energy (rather than producing it). Here, gravity comes back into play. With nothing left to burn, the star begins to collapses into itself. The massive ones can form black holes, and the ones a bit smaller (think 5-8 times the size of our sun) explode.

Explosions are great to watch – from a safe distance – and supernovas are no different. The explosion lasts 15 seconds but leaves a long enough lasting impression to light the galaxy for months! If you want to see one, click here to watch the Crab Supernova explosion on YouTube. It’s a big bang kind of explosion, and it’s speculated that the big bang existed because of supernovae.

I may not get to visit another planetarium for awhile, but at least I can still get a quick space fix here and there. Maybe next week, we’ll look at black holes. Have a great day all!

*Photo Credit


Have you ever visited a planetarium? What are your thoughts on supernovae?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Northrup October 13, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I thought this was going to be about Michael Jackson. 🙂

I love astronomy and space. some of my earliest memories are of watching the Apollo moon missions on the old tv with the rabbit ears. I even went to school to study Aerospace Engineering…

Finally saw a night shuttle launch last year in Florida. Not too many of those left…

Seize the Day,
Rob

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Darryl Pace October 13, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Cool! This is fascinating information!

Health, Fitness for Working People — Darryl Pace

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Robert Martin October 13, 2009 at 9:21 pm

That is a cool video.

Robert Martin
http://www.carbuyinghq.com

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Jose Escalante October 14, 2009 at 12:32 am

I like learning about space. I watch that show on the History channel called Universe. It’s so cool

Jose Escalante
http://www.joseescalante.com

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Steve Chambers October 14, 2009 at 2:37 am

There are some great pictures of Supernova’s on NASA’s website at http://www.nasa.gov

Steve Chambers
Sales Training Speaker

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