Glossary term: Supernova

Description: A supernova is a massive stellar explosion. Supernovae briefly become by far the most luminous object in their galaxy before fading over the course of a few years. There are two main pathways that lead to supernovae. The first (Type Ia) involves a white dwarf accreting matter from a binary companion star. Once the white dwarf is destabilized, either by achieving a mass of over 1.4 solar masses (known as the Chandrasekhar limit) or by accumulating enough helium on its surface, it explodes, leaving no remnant. The other main pathway that forms a supernova (Type II) is the evolution of a star with a mass greater than eight solar masses. At the end of such a star's evolution it explodes, resulting in a neutron star or (for the most massive stars) a stellar-mass black hole.

Supernovae are the source of many of the chemical elements, especially those heavier than magnesium.

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Term and definition status: This term and its definition have been approved by a research astronomer and a teacher

The OAE Multilingual Glossary is a project of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) in collaboration with the IAU Office of Astronomy Outreach (OAO). The terms and definitions were chosen, written and reviewed by a collective effort from the OAE, the OAE Centers and Nodes, the OAE National Astronomy Education Coordinators (NAECs) and other volunteers. You can find a full list of credits here. All glossary terms and their definitions are released under a Creative Commons CC BY-4.0 license and should be credited to "IAU OAE".

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A neutron star appears as a blue spot surrounded by shells of material which appear as red and green rings

Death of a massive star

Caption: A multi-wavelength image taken with telescopes on the Earth and in space of a neutron star within our neighbouring Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy. A neutron star (seen here as the blue spot surrounded by a red ring) is the final product of gravitational collapse, compression and explosion of a massive star, left embedded in its supernova remnant (in green).
Credit: ESO/NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/F. Vogt et al. credit link

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