MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: Could our sun become a supernova before it becomes a Red Gaint?

Area: Astronomy
Posted By: Mark Friedman, Undergrad, Biology
Date: Tue Jan 21 00:12:59 1997
Message ID: 853258443.As

In order to answer your question, we must examine the process that a star undergoes during the later stages of its life.

MadSci Network: Astronomy

As a star burns, it slowly uses up the fuel stored in its core, which in the case of our Sun, happens to be hydrogen. Eventually, as the core of the star is consumed, the outside layers begin to expand. At this point, the star is officially on its way to becoming a giant star.

The gases which make up the interior envelope of the star begin to recede, creating a drastically cooler star called a red giant. Using proper equipment, one can actually observe red giants in the sky.

A supernova, on the other hand, represents an explosion of a star that essentially ends the star's energy generating life. Supernova's are characterized by a tremendous, rapid brightening followed by a gradual dimming. When a star "goes supernova," considerable amounts of its matter, equaling the material of several Suns, may be blasted into space with such a burst of energy as to enable the exploding star to outshine its entire home galaxy. Following, this explosion, the star gradually dims, unable to continue its original energy production

With this in mind, a star could not become a red giant after going supernova. The red giant phase represents an earlier stage in the star's destruction. A supernova on the other hand, destroys the star's ability to continue its generation of energy. The evolution of the Sun should continue on the same path as that taken by most stars. As the core hydrogen is used up,the Sun will enter the red giant phase, producing an enormous shell that may extend as far as the Earth. Fortunately, billions of years will pass before this catastrophe occurs.

Hopefully, this sheds a little light on a potentially confusing topic.

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