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Supernovae: Spectacle or Disaster?

             A simplified definition of a supernova is "a rare celestial phenomenon involving the explosion of most of the material in a star, resulting in an extremely bright, short-lived object that emits vast amounts of energy," (American 381). The word supernova originated when ancient astronomers thought that this spectacle was the creation of new stars. In Latin, "nova" means new. The name stuck although astronomers soon found that it was not the beginning of a star's life, but actually the opposite. Although supernovae are a rare celestial phenomenon, they need to be further explored; their potential affect on our planet's climate, the environment and the earth's future needs to be acknowledged. .
             To truly understand this event, one must be aware that stars, like humans, have life cycles. A star is born in a giant cloud of gas and dust, called a nebula. The mass of the star is determined by how much matter is available in its nebula. With more mass, comes a shorter life cycle. Through time, hydrogen gas is pulled together and eventually begins to spin. As the spinning gradually increases, the heat of the hydrogen rises in temperature. When 15,000,000 degrees is exceeded, a nuclear fusion will occur and the substance will begin to glow brightly (Spritzer 128). This is now called a main sequence star. This is the central phase of the life cycle. An average star will expand as it runs out of nuclear fuel and eventually fade out of sight. Massive stars, defined as being at least five times that of the sun, are the extraordinary stars which will end their lives in this spectacular light show. There are two different types of this fascinating phenomenon, simply classified as Type I and Type II. Type I occurs in binary stars, or stars that are close together and orbit around each other. The smaller of the two, called a white dwarf, draws mass form the larger star. When the white dwarf exceeds a mass that is 1.

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