When a star that is eight times larger than the sun ends its life, it does not go gentle into that good night. Shifting pressure in its core causes it to collapse and trigger a supernova, the largest explosion in the universe. While witnessing supernovae in the Milky Way galaxy is extremely rare—Johannes Kepler spied the last one in 1604—they are often observed in other galaxies using powerful telescopes such as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The initial flash of light, which can outshine the star’s host galaxy, may last only seconds. But the resulting debris that is flung into space can be studied for millennia. Such fragments sprinkled throughout the universe contain the seeds of life, like the carbon in our bodies and the oxygen we breathe. Watch the video to see a supernova in action.
How fading stars spark colossal explosions.
What does a supernova look like? Watch this animation to find out.
Johannes Kepler was the last person to see a Milky Way supernova in 1604. The powerful explosion emitted Kepler’s fragment (above).
Tycho’s supernova fragment (above) was originally observed by Tycho Brahe in 1572. Red represents an expanding bubble of sizzling debris.
SN 1006 (above) is a 1,000-year-old supernova fragment located about 7,000 light-years from Earth.
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video courtesy of ESA/Hubble/L. Calcada
Kepler image courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO/DSS/D. Patnaude
Tycho image courtesy of NASA/CXC/Rutgers/DSS/K. Eriksen et al.
SN 1006 image courtesy of NASA/CXC
- Julia Calderone (USRA) [Lead]