Why Do Stars Explode?


We’ve all heard about supernovas and gamma ray bursts, as they relate to what occurs when a star explodes.  Star explosions occur on a daily basis, with the large majority of them being far beyond what the average astronomer can observe from their home planet.  Yet, they are extremely powerful events in space that are very worthy of our attention due to the effects that they have.

Today, we are going to be talking about why stars explode and what exactly happens when an explosion takes place.  Thanks to new research, we know more about this process than ever before. 

What Causes the Explosion of Stars?

Stars have life spans that relate to the amount of energy that they have stored.  Each star has a core that consists of hydrogen, and this hydrogen acts as fuel that allows the star to self-regulate and maintain itself.  However, each core of a star has a limited amount of hydrogen.  Now, smaller stars, as in stars that are smaller than the sun, can survive once their hydrogen runs out.  They fuse their helium supply with their carbon supply, and their properties change as a result, allowing them to turn into a planetary nebula, then a white dwarf, then a black dwarf.  This entire process takes approximately 1 billion years to complete.

The thing is that there are many stars that are larger than the sun, and these stars have a different life process.  For them, once their core runs out of hydrogen and the process of helium and carbon fusion takes place, there is only a limited amount of time before they explode.  This is because once the helium runs out, the carbon begins to fuse with other elements including oxygen and sulfur, and these elements are heavier than helium.  This causes the star to become unable to support its own weight as the temperatures continue to rise.  This causes a star to collapse into itself, as the core continues to increase in temperature.  Then, it becomes a supernova as it inevitably explodes.

What Happens When a Star Explodes?

When a large star, meaning a star larger than the sun, explodes, it produces more energy than any other space event.  It causes what’s known as a gamma ray burst, which produces a spectacular light show that is brighter than anything else that we can observe in space.  These gamma ray bursts produced by the explosions of large stars can emit the same amount of energy as the star releases over the course of its lifetime, and these bursts only last for a couple of seconds.  However, there is an afterglow after the event has completed, and this can last for many hours, and can be observed using specialized technology. 

Only recently have scientists actually enjoyed the ability to measure the amount of energy that is emitted following the explosion of a large star.  New technology allows them to measure the number of photons that are spewed into space immediately following an explosion.  In fact, these advancements in technology have allowed scientist to discover that large star explosions emit about twice as much energy as has been previously believed, meaning that these events are profoundly powerful, to say the least.

Truly a Spectacular Occurrence

A star explosion is a phenomenal space event that’s more spectacular the larger the star is.  Thanks to the highly advanced technology employed by NASA, we can understand and observe this occurrence like we never have been able to before.  And, as you can see, grasping this fascinating occurrence allows us to gain a greater understanding of the universe around us.

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