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The Cataclysm of Supernova

The Cataclysm of Supernova

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Published by Vincent S Ryan

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Published by: Vincent S Ryan on Nov 22, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The cataclysm :supernovae
Let's go back to our journey when all the core - at least thebiggest part of it- of the star has burned into carbon, but nowlet's assume that the initial star has a mass greater than 6 or 7solar masses. The carbon core is able to collapse because of itsown weight, and carbon in the star begins fusion intomagnesium. At this time, the inner temperature is greater thanhundreds of millions of degrees.
The star is becominglike an onion, where thedifferent concentriclayers correspond todifferent fusionreactions. Theoutermost layer isburning hydrogen (H) toform helium(He), next,it's helium which ischanging into carbon(C),then oxygen(O) isforming, and when wego deeper to the core,we find more and moreheavy elements :neon(Ne), sodium, magnesium(Mg), silicon(Si), sulphur(S),nickel, cobalt and, at last iron(Fe).
Iron can't change into any other element, simply because thereis no more energy : it accumulates in the core, which at thesame time fills withelectron degenerate matter.Outer layers are contracting, so the mass of the core is gettingbigger and bigger, but it has no more energy to fight againgravity. When its mass reaches the critical Chandrasekharmass, - this name comes from an Indian physicist - whosevalue is around 1.4 solar masses, it suddenly collapses,dragging along the outer layers of the stars. This collapsegenerates a hugemecanical energywhose transfert to theouter layers results inthe explosion of thestar, producing one of the most luminousevents known : thesupernova. This supernova is called 'type II', as opposed to the 'type I' what we have previously seen.
 Supernova SN1999em, situated 25million light years away in thegalaxy NGC1637. It has been very recently discovered by the Chandraspace telescope, which works inthe Xray part of the spectrum.This star is radiating as much power as 50,000 suns in the Xray domain, and 200 million suns in thevisible part of the spectrum. A supernova can shine like tenbillions of suns, i.e. more than itsharbouring galaxy.
Source NASA / Lick Observatory 
 The fragments of the star are ejected at a speed which can befaster than 10.000 kilometres by second. They form a splendidnebula around the remnant of the star.
In the year 1054, a supernovashone in daylight for a few weeks. Il has given us this beautiful nebula,known as the 'Crab nebula' .Viewed from the Earth, thesupernova was brighter than Venusand is located more than 7000light   yearsaway.Source :ESO 
Such an explosion is powerful enough to briefly allow newfusionreactions in the iron core, permitting the generation of elements heavier than iron.All the elements that you can find on Earth, except hydrogenand helium, come from supernovae explosions.
Compared evolutions of starsof one, ten and thirty solar masses.Massive stars gothrough a 'red supergiant' stage,and disapear in asupernovaexplosion.

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