MEHAU KULYK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MEHAU KULYK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Supernova. Illustration depicting the explosion of a star as a supernova. A supernova is a spectacular energy outburst caused by the explosive disruption of a star, marking the end of its life. A supernova occurs when a star of over 1.4 solar masses has burned all of its nuclear fuel. As the radiation pressure from hydrogen 'burning' decreases, so the star shrinks under gravity. The core temperature rises enough to 'burn' helium. When this is exhausted, the star starts collapsing rapidly, getting hotter still and 'burning' heavier elements until it explodes as a supernova. The remnant core of the star may collapse to form a neutron star or black hole.
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