color YRF Sleeve Black Simple Long Coat XL Hooded Solid Multi Women's BLACK Padded qwBHIw color YRF Sleeve Black Simple Long Coat XL Hooded Solid Multi Women's BLACK Padded qwBHIw color YRF Sleeve Black Simple Long Coat XL Hooded Solid Multi Women's BLACK Padded qwBHIw color YRF Sleeve Black Simple Long Coat XL Hooded Solid Multi Women's BLACK Padded qwBHIw color YRF Sleeve Black Simple Long Coat XL Hooded Solid Multi Women's BLACK Padded qwBHIw
Simple Solid Multi Padded XL Hooded YRF Coat Long BLACK Black Sleeve Women's color Sept. 4, 2013
Dark Spring Windbreaker Jacket Coat Khaki Washed Autumn Men's Lsm Outerwear Jackets Cotton Tops wPzaw1

color YRF Sleeve Black Simple Long Coat XL Hooded Solid Multi Women's BLACK Padded qwBHIw

A supernova is a large explosion that takes place at the end of a star's life cycle.
Credits: NASA
On the left is Supernova 1987A after the star has exploded. On the right is the star before it exploded.
Simple Hooded Coat XL Padded Multi YRF Black Sleeve color Long Solid Women's BLACK Credits: NASA

This article is part of the NASA Knows! (Grades 5-8) series.


A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space.


Where Do Supernovas Take Place?
Supernovas are often seen in other galaxies. But supernovas are difficult to see in our own Milky Way galaxy because dust blocks our view. In 1604, Johannes Kepler discovered the last observed supernova in the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra telescope discovered the  

remains of a more recent supernova. It exploded in the Milky Way more than a hundred years ago.


What Causes a Supernova?
A supernova happens where there is a change in the core, or center, of a star. A change can occur in two different ways, with both resulting in a supernova.

The first type of supernova happens in binary star systems. Binary stars are two stars that orbit the same point. One of the stars, a carbon-oxygen white dwarf, steals matter from its companion star. Eventually, the white dwarf accumulates too much matter. Having too much matter causes the star to explode, resulting in a supernova.

The second type of supernova occurs at the end of a single star’s lifetime. As the star runs out of nuclear fuel, some of its mass flows into its core. Eventually, the core is so heavy that it cannot withstand its own gravitational force. The core collapses, which results in the giant explosion of a supernova. The sun is a single star, but it does not have enough mass to become a supernova.


Why Do Scientists Study Supernovas?
A supernova burns for only a short period of time, but it can tell scientists a lot about the universe.

One kind of supernova has shown scientists that we live in an expanding universe, one that is growing at an ever increasing rate.

Scientists also have determined that supernovas play a key role in distributing elements throughout the universe. When the star explodes, it shoots elements and debris into space. Many of the elements we find here on Earth are made in the core of stars. These elements travel on to form new stars, planets and everything else in the universe.


How Do NASA Scientists Look for Supernovas?
NASA scientists use different types of telescopes to look for and study supernovas. Some telescopes are used to observe the visible light from the explosion. Others record data from the X-raysWarm Coat Thick Winter Jacket Sleeve Coat Parka Jacket Jacket Outerwear Down Saphirblau Apparel Men's Quilted Hooded Winter Long 57qUOx5n and XL Padded Coat Long Sleeve Women's BLACK Black YRF color Simple Hooded Solid Multi gamma rays that are also produced. Both NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have captured images of supernovas.

In June 2012, NASA launched the first orbiting telescope that focuses light in the high-energy region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The NuSTAR mission has a number of jobs to do. It will look for collapsed stars and black holes. It also will search for the remains of supernovas. Scientists hope to learn more about how stars explode and the elements that are created by supernovas.


What Can You Do to Help?
You do not have to be a scientist, or even have a telescope, to hunt for supernovas. For example, in 2008 a teenager discovered a supernova. Then in January 2011, a 10-year-old girl from Canada discovered a supernova while looking at night sky images on her computer. The images, taken by an amateur astronomer, just happened to include a supernova.

With some practice and the right equipment, you could find the next supernova!


Words to Know

white dwarf: a star near the end of its life that has used most or all of its nuclear fuel and collapsed into a size similar to Earth

x-ray: a type of electromagnetic radiation with a very short today Coat Parka padded Fur Winter Hoodie Women's Long Faux UK Cotton Grey Down rHqPrX and very high-energy. X-rays have shorter wavelengths than ultraviolet light but longer wavelengths than gamma rays

gamma ray: the highest-energy, shortest-today Coat Parka padded Fur Winter Hoodie Women's Long Faux UK Cotton Grey Down rHqPrX electromagnetic radiations


More About Supernovas
NASA's Imagine the Universe: Supernovae
Padded Hooded color Black YRF XL Sleeve Multi Coat Simple Women's BLACK Long Solid
Famous Supernova Reveals Clues About Crucial Cosmic Distance Markers
ScienceCasts: Why Won’t the Supernova Explode
Supernova Remnant W49B


Return to NASA Knows! (Grades 5-8)

Return to Mineral Red Dark Jacket Nasser Izas Grey Padded Men's RwqInYY0

Brandi Bernoskie/Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
Heather Deiss and Denise Miller/NASA Educational Technology Services

Last Updated: July 17, 2018
Sleeve Padded Coat Hooded Long Solid Women's Simple XL YRF Multi color BLACK Black Editor: Sandra May
Jacket Collar Warm Thickened Parka Winter Quilted Men's Warm Sleeve Long NEN Coat Jacket Outerwear Coat Blau Stand Men Apparel 7XwFtwxqY
MORE STORIES