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Supernova-Related Demonstrations

The three major phenomena associated with supernovas explosions can be demonstrated with easily available and inexpensive materials. The imploding can and basketball/tennis ball demos are commonly used in physics classes; however they are not usually associated with core contraction and the detonation of stellar atmospheric layers. The most difficult concept for students to understand is density. The angel cake and cellophane is a good approximation of the amount of material that remains in the core and its size, and the amount of material that gets blown away. Since all supernovas remnant images show all the beautifully colored materials that have been blown away from the star and the core cannot be seen - students have a common misconception that the star has literally blown itself apart, which is not the case.

  • High School
    • Core Contraction (Imploding Can) html | pdf
    • Ejection of Atmospheric Layers (Basketball/Tennis Ball) html | pdf
    • Core Density (Angel Cake/Cellophane) html | pdf

These demonstrations were written by Donna Young, Wright Center Research Associate, Wright

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