Over the Edge

At this point, the core of a high-mass star is, in effect, a white dwarf. It is supported by its degenerate electrons. But there is a problem. The mass of a high-mass stellar remnant is so large that gravity overwhelms even the resistance of electrons to having the same position and velocity. A mass of 1.4 solar masses is sufficient to overwhelm those electrons, which are combined with protons to create neutrons. The temperatures in the core of the star become so high that all of the work of fusion is rapidly undone. The iron nuclei are split into their component protons and neutrons in a process called photodisintegration.

As the core of the star collapses under its own gravity, the electrons combine with protons to become neutrons and neutrinos. The neutrinos escape into space, heralds of disaster. The core of the star only stops its collapse when the entire core has the density of an atomic nucleus. This sudden halt in the collapse causes a shock wave to move through the outer layers of the star and violently blow off its outer layers.

Star Words

Core-collapse supernova is the extraordinarily energetic explosion that results when the core of a high-mass star collapses under its own gravity.

Star Words

Core-collapse supernova is the extraordinarily energetic explosion that results when the core of a high-mass star collapses under its own gravity.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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