bright colorful bubble against starry background

Supernova alert! Astronomers just found a way to predict the explosive death of stars

Wouldn’t it be nice to know when a giant star is about to die in a cataclysmic supernova explosion? This is exactly what a team of astronomers did. If you see a giant red star surrounded by a thick shroud of matter, be careful, the star will probably explode in a few years.

When a massive star approaches the end of its life, it goes through several violent phases. Deep in the star’s core, it changes from the fusion of hydrogen to the fusion of heavier elements, starting with helium and working its way up to carbon, oxygen, magnesium and to silicon. At the end of the chain, the star eventually forms iron in its core. Because the iron saps the energy instead of releasing it, this spells the end of the star, and in less than a dozen minutes it flips over in a fantastic explosion called a supernova.


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