Images by Date
Images by Category
Solar System
Stars
White Dwarfs
Supernovas
Neutron Stars
Black Holes
Milky Way Galaxy
Normal Galaxies
Quasars
Galaxy Clusters
Cosmology/Deep Field
Miscellaneous
Images by Interest
Space Scoop for Kids
Multiwavelength
Sky Map
Constellations
3D Wall
Photo Blog
Top Rated Images
Image Handouts
Desktops
High Res Prints
Fits Files
Image Tutorials
Photo Album Tutorial
False Color
Cosmic Distance
Look-Back Time
Scale & Distance
Angular Measurement
Images & Processing
AVM/Metadata
Getting Hard Copies
Image Use Policy
Web Shortcuts
Chandra Blog
RSS Feed
Chandra Mobile
Chronicle
Email Newsletter
News & Noteworthy
Image Use Policy
Questions & Answers
Glossary of Terms
Download Guide
Get Adobe Reader
Space Scoop
The Star That Lived Two Lives

In 1604, a new star appeared in the night sky. It shone brighter than all the other stars, and for three weeks, it was even visible during the day! This mysterious beacon marked the explosive death of a nearby star. These explosions are called supernovas, and they give off so much light that for a few weeks, they can outshine a galaxy of billions of stars! Then, slowly they fade away, leaving behind beautiful glowing clouds of gas, like the one in this picture.

But let's travel back to a few millions years earlier, because the story of this star gets even more interesting. The star that exploded in 1604 began its life as an average star, similar to our Sun. When an average-sized star dies, the result is much less dramatic than a powerful supernova. Instead of exploding, they expand to become a red giant and then collapse. The material from the centre of the star ends up squashed tightly down into a tiny, heavy ball called a white dwarf star.

This is how this star died for the first time, long before 1604. But how did it end up dying a second time? Well, astronomers have recently discovered the answer to that question. The white dwarf had a companion, an enormous red giant star. Even though the red giant was much larger, the white dwarf's gravity was much stronger. It began to rip gas off its companion, pulling the material onto itself. Eventually the star's own greed led to its demise. It stole so much material that it became unstable, leading to the spectacular explosion that our ancestors saw!

Cool fact: The astronomers who made this discovery have created a video showing a simulation of the supernova explosion; you can watch it here and get an amazing close-up view of one of the most explosive events in nature!



Watch the video podcast


This is a kids' version of Chandra Press Release Kepler's Supernova Remnant (March 18, 2013)

Do you want to learn more about this topic?

Visit the Chandra field guide or send us your questions in an email: cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu




In cooperation with Space Scoop: Bringing news from across the Universe to children all around the world. Universe Awareness and the Chandra X-ray Observatory


Children & Online Privacy
RSS feed