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A supernova is an exploding star. The name originally meant a new star because early astronomers only knew that a new star not previously known had appeared in the sky. Really a supernova is a very old star that has become instable and can’t keep steady like the sun anymore.

Supernova explosions are enormously powerful and a star that has become a supernova can give off more light than a whole galaxy for the short time that it exists. The explosion drives off most of the matter that was in the star and stardust races outwards at up to a tenth the speed of light. Interstellar material gets swept up in this powerful explosion forming a mixture where later new stars and planetary systems can develop later. Our Solar System started that way. We know that because there are heavy elements in the Solar System. Heavy elements like oxygen, nitrogen and carbon form in stars and are dispersed during a supernova explosion. Elements that are heavier than iron form during supernova explosions. The oxygen, nitrogen and carbon in our bodies and in other living things was originally in one or more stars that went supernova though Red Giant stars may produce some of these elements as well. Later when the Red Giant becomes a supernova the heavy elements are dispersed. We literally owe our lives to supernova explosions.


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