Right now, somewhere in the universe, a giant star is detonating, creating a huge cosmic explosion called a supernova. Supernovas are a big, giant, dramatic end to a star’s life. All stars die, but only the biggest go out with a bang. For a star to go supernova, scientists think it has to be at least eight times more massive than our sun. So Let’s see What is a Supernova?
What is a Supernova?
It’s really simple to imagine our sun as this enormous object. But our son is absolutely tiny compared to some of the giant stars in the sky. We can see some of these giant stars with the naked eye. And the 10th brightest in the night sky is a red supergiant around 15 times the mass of the sun. Beetlejuice.
The size of Beetlejuice would extend to Jupiter’s orbit if it were placed in our solar system. One of the largest creatures in the universe is this. It is a star that is likewise almost extinct.
Beetlejuice is less than 10 million years old, but this huge star’s days are numbered. It’s ready to blow. And when it does, we’ll see a region of sky brighten for 14 days until it’s nearly as bright as a full moon. It is going to be one of the most spectacular shows in history. And it might occur at any time.
So what will make Beetlejuice go Supernova?
What causes a Supernova?
We must first comprehend a huge star’s life in order to comprehend its demise. from the moment of birth until the moment of death. A star’s life is a constant battle. Gravity is pulling in and energy pushing out.
Numerous atomic nuclei are fusing together in a star’s interior. Atoms are colliding and getting extremely close to one another. And if they get close enough, they’ll actually stick and form a larger atom. Every second a giant star fuses seven and one half billion tons of hydrogen.
That much energy is about equal to 100 billion atomic bombs being detonated every second. That’s a big ass explosion. The star could be destroyed by this enormous energy. But the star’s own massive gravity keeps the lid on.
Everything in the universe is a fight between the inward force of gravity and the outward force of pressure or energy. Every single star in the sky. Even our own sun is an incredibly dynamic battleground in many ways. Stars are an explosion that are actually too big to explode. Gravity holds it together. This battle between these two opposing forces determines the life and death of the star.
And this is where size matters. The more massive the star, the more gravity pushes inward and the harder the star has to push outwards to keep itself alive.
Process of Supernova Explosion
Very massive stars are like stars on steroids. There’s a lot of fuel for them to burn. They’re so powerful that they use up their fuel at a rapid rate. Massive stars like Beetlejuice are giant factories fusing lighter elements into heavier ones.
However, the challenging job doesn’t begin until the last few years. For around 90% of their life, they fuse hydrogen into helium. However, ultimately the hydrogen runs out.
In the core of a Supergiant star. There is a sequence of fusion that progresses from lighter to heavier elements, and it accelerates at every stage. The countdown to death begins.
The inward push from gravity takes over. Raising the temperature in the core. Helium starts fusing into carbon. There’s enough helium to last about a million years, but it too runs out and things start speeding up. Carbon gets fused into neon. That takes about a thousand years.
Neon fusing into silicon. That takes about one year. As soon as it begins to fuse silicon into iron, which takes one day, it becomes increasingly agitated. It resembles a cooking competition show in that time is of the essence. They’re trying to do more and more things and they get more and more frantic until Ding! Time’s up. The star is now in its death throes.
Process of death of a Star
The cataclysmic end of this star is drawing near once iron production begins. In the centre of the core of the dying star, a huge ball of iron that is exceedingly thick forms. This iron spheroid is incredibly hot and thousands of miles across.
It gets so hot there, the temperature almost becomes meaningless. The temperature in the centre of one of these stars is billions of degrees. This extreme heat is caused by fusion reactions. More and more reactions create heavier and heavier elements, and with each step, less and less energy is produced until iron is created.
It requires energy to attempt to fuse two iron nuclei together. It produces no energy. The core is essentially stealing its own energy once it begins to fuse iron. A rising portion of the star’s energy is being sucked away by the iron core.
Gravity continues, pulling in overwhelming the outward pressure from inside the star. Everything gets crushed to unimaginable degrees. All of a sudden, there’s no nuclear reaction to support the star against the crush of gravity. With nothing left holding it up.
The star is doomed.
What happens to a star when it dies?
Gravity winds the edges of the iron core collapse. At a fourth the speed of light, trillions of tonnes of dense iron collapse inward. There is now less than a second remaining for the star to live. Things swiftly start to fall apart.
The core collapse is so fast that the outer layers of the star don’t even have time to react. They’re just hanging there. It’s kind of like Wile E Coyote when a cliff collapses underneath him and he doesn’t even fall until he notices.
The rest of the star collapses a trillion, trillion, trillion tons of gas hurtle inwards following the ion. Think about the entire mass of the star that has been held up by nuclear reactions inside. All of a sudden those nuclear reactions go away in a split second.
Everything rushes into the middle. And that sets off the most dramatic explosion in the universe. The spectacular death blow can outshine all of the stars in the galaxy. But there’s a problem. We still don’t fully understand how a collapsing ball of iron and tons of falling gas create a giant fireball.
How this collapsing core triggers a massive explosion is one of the biggest mysteries in astrophysics.