JUN 10, 2016 02:33 PM PDT

Why Do Some Stars Go Boom?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Our Sun is a star that's been burning for the past 4.6 billion years. It's got about another 5 billion years to go before the fuel runs out. And when it does happen, scientists think the process will be a peaceful event, whereby the Sun turns into a white dwarf - a sort of ghostly planetary counterpart to the Sun's original state.

For better or for worse, our Sun's death won't result in a dramatic cosmic light show that is characteristic of a supernova. But what dictates whether a star will go out in a bang? As it turns out, mass has a lot to do with this cosmic event. The bigger the mass of the star, the more energy it has for the final explosive output. So, as big as the sun is to us, it's not so massive enough to produce a supernova.

If you do want to see a supernova up close, hang on for another 100,000 years or so. This is when scientists think the star Red Betelgeuse will explode in such a big bang that we can see it with the naked eye from Earth.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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