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Seattle Public Library


File:Artist's impression time-lapse of distant supernovae.webm

Shown in this sped-up artist's impression, is a collection of distant galaxies, the occasional supernova can be seen. Each of these exploding stars briefly rivals the brightness of its host galaxy.

Theoretical studies of many supernovae show that they can be triggered by one of two basic mechanisms. This can be by sudden re-ignition of nuclear fusion in a degenerate star; or by the sudden gravitational collapse of the massive star's core. In the first instance, a degenerate white dwarf may accumulate sufficient material from a binary companion, either through accretion or via a merger, to raise its core temperature to then trigger runaway nuclear fusion, completely disrupting the star. In the second case, the core of a massive star may undergo sudden gravitational collapse, releasing gravitational potential energy that can create a supernova explosion. Observations show that there are more complexities than these two simple alternative mechanisms, however, the astrophysical collapse mechanics have been established and accepted by most astronomers for some time.

Due to the significant number of diverse astrophysical consequences of these supernovae events, astronomers now deem supernovae research, across the fields of stellar and galactic evolution, as an especially important area for investigation.