Supernova Facts

  • A supernova (plural supernovae not supernovas) is the final, gigantic explosion of a supergiant star at the end of its life.
  • A supernova lasts for just a week or so, but shines as bright as a galaxy of 100 billion ordinary stars.
  • Supernovae happen when a supergiant star uses up its hydrogen and helium fuel and shrinks, boosting pressure in its core enough to fuse heavy elements such as iron (see nuclear energy).
  • When iron begins to fuse in its core, a star collapses instantly — then rebounds in a mighty explosion.
  • Seen in 1987, supernova 1987A was the first viewed with the naked eye since Kepler’s 1604 sighting.
  • Supernova remnants (leftovers) are the gigantic, cloudy shells of material swelling out from supernovae.
  • A supernova seen by Chinese astronomers in AD 184 was thought to be such a bad omen that it sparked off a palace revolution.
  • A dramatic supernova was seen by Chinese astronomers in AD 1054 and left the Crab nebula.
  • Elements heavier than iron were made in supernovae.
  • Many of the elements that make up your body were forged in supernovae.