Close to 160,000 years ago, a star in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy close to the Milky Way, burst itself in a majestic, yet violent death, an outstanding example of a supernova explosion. From this exploding star, light and other forms of radiation spread outward in all directions, traveling six trillion miles each year, with radiation passing into dust-shrouded interstellar clouds, speeding through the nearly empty reaches of some intergalactic medium, and radiating into other galaxies. Some of this radiation-about one part in a quadrillion of the total-reached the planet Earth, where it lit the skies as the brightest supernova explosion seen in nearly four centuries. Supernovae, stars that explode at the end of their extremely long lifespan, remain as one of the most wondrous events that take place in the known universe. A supernova consists of three main phases; what happens to the star before the supernova, what happens during the supernova, and what happens after the supernova. First, there should be an explanation of what happens to a star to cause it to go supernova. During the life of a star, it undergoes a process called nuclear fusion, which produces a number of different elements and a huge abundance of heat and light energy (Goldsmith, p. 55). .
Some elements produced in this matter are iron, silicon and hydrogen, amongst other. During the nuclear fusion process, a large abundance of energy is produced. Take the Sun for example; it produces light that distinguishes daytime and nighttime on planet Earth, and produces heat that prevents the Earth from freezing over and allows plants and animals to live on the planet. In addition, the iron that is produced by the reaction is pulled toward the center of the star, causing the core of the star to greatly increase in mass over large amounts of time. When enough mass is accumulated in the core, one of two things happen.