The Chemistry of a Supernova


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A supernova occurs at the end of a star's life cycle and expels all its matter into the universe. I chose to learn about the chemistry of a supernova because a supernova is an incredible reaction that naturally occurs in space, plus it ends in a huge explosion so who wouldn’t like that? A supernova is actually the beginning of life, and without them life would not exist. Supernovae produce key elements for life which range from hydrogen to even gold.

Composition of ...

A supernova is composed of many elements which include, initially, hydrogen which spans to heavier elements like iron and, in extreme cases, even gold. The star itself begins as a cloud of hydrogen floating through the universe. This cloud of gas begins to condense due to gravity and forms a star. This condensing of the star increases the internal temperature which begins the process of fusion.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

  • Star

  • A star is formed by the condensing of hydrogen gasses in the universe.

  • This gas condenses enough to create enough heat to begin fusion

    • Through fusion it combines hydrogen atoms to form helium atoms and so on.

    • This will continue until fusion forms heavy elements such as iron, in most cases, or even up to gold in rare cases.

  • Supernova

    • A supernova occurs when a star is completely depleted of hydrogen and can’t fuse any more elements.

    • Without the energy of fusion pushing against gravity, gravity begins to crush the star, increasing the internal heat even more.

    • This increase in temperature and condensing of the star goes only so far until it needs to expand, and this it does violently.

Chemistry's Role

Every process leading up to a supernova is a natural occurrence. It all begins when floating clouds of hydrogen gas begin to condense due to it’s own gravity. This condensing increases the internal temperature of the ball of gas. Once the temperature reaches over 100 million degrees celsius fusion can begin. This is where the Chemistry comes into play. The hydrogen atoms of the new star can begin to fuse together which forms helium atoms. This releases energy which pushes outward on the inward acting force, gravity, thus stabilizing the star. As the temperature of the star continues to increase further, heavier elements can be formed. This will continue until the heaviest element for that temperature is reached. The larger the star the hotter it will get, thus being able to fuse heavier elements than smaller stars like our sun. A supernova occurs when a star runs out of hydrogen and can not fuse any more elements which enables gravity to crush the star without resistance. This then causes the molecules in the star to move violently until they move fast enough that it causes an explosion, called a supernova.

Background Research

A supernova is an explosion that is caused by the death of a star. In order for a supernova to occur the star must undergo fusion. This will fuse elements in the star until unable to fuse further due to lack of temperature in the core. Once the limit is reached the star will implode and create a supernova. So a supernova is made of all elements leading to the highest element the star could fuse.


Creation of stars

Composition of stars

Supernova nucleosynthesis

Fusion of elements

Ejecta of a supernova

Isotopes created in a star

Massive star Fusion of heavy elements

Formation of high mass elements

Supernova’s role in dispersing elements

About the Author
Ryan Swanson is a junior at Senior High. He enjoys school very much and pushes himself to do the best he can. Ryan is in the platinum program at Senior, which consists of all honors classes. He favors science and math above all other classes. Although he is busy with school, he still finds time to do school sports such as soccer and track and field. In the future he plans on becoming an aerospace engineer, but has not yet decided on a college. Ryan Swanson is a very interesting and kind human being.