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article imageStars Die in a Glorious Display

By Tea Lulic     Mar 14, 2007 in Technology
As you all know, no star lives forever. Nuclear fuel causes its layers to be thrown away, diminishing the light of these stars until all of a sudden, they are gone.
This is an opinion piece and it is purely based on the research I have done on planetary nebulae. I was always fascinated by the death of the stars which generate a whole lot of energy. Fascinated by the pictures from the Hubble, I have decided to investigate further this exquisite event. Websites that I have used for this research will be linked at the bottom of this page if you want to read further.
As stars grow old, they expand. The core of the star starts to cool down because of loss of hydrogen and helium. This eventually leads to massive explosion and disappearance of the particular star.
Ironically, the most massive stars have the shortest lives. If we look at the stars that are 25-50 times more massive than the Sun, we would discover that they only live approximately million years.
If you want a concrete example, check out Betelgeuse. This is a red supergiant star. It is 20 times more massive than the Sun and is 14,000 times brighter than the Sun. However, the Sun is going to live a whole lot more than Betelgeuse (approximately 17,000 years more).
What happens when a star dies? It could either become a black hole, a neutral star, or a black dwarf. This all depends on how massive they are.
When the star starts dying, we can notice reddening around its outer regions. That is why we call them a red giant. This is what happens when the star turns into a red giant:
Courtesy of Hyper Physics
The next set of pictures shows different Nebulae mostly taken by Hubble. I hope you will enjoy these pictures as much as I did. It is fascinating to see these and it raises some very simple questions in my head, such as how much energy is generated when these stars explode? What is the most energy one star can generate? But that's another story.
Cat's Eye Nebula - this is how our Sun might look like when it dies out
Twin Jet Nebula - ejecting outer layers on their north and south poles (scientists still do not know why this happens)
The Ring Nebula - barrel of gas blown off
Hourglass Nebula
As you can see, there are many different shapes Nebulas can take on when they explode. When the nebula starts to die, the wind on its surface is at first 10 miles per second. Ultra violent light is generated (which you can see in the pictures above). After years pass by, the wind picks up its speed to about 1000 miles per second. This wind creates these remarkable shapes by racing outward.
The heat increases, causing gases to glow in different colours. This fluorescent light lasts for about 10,000 years before dying out. Then the nebula becomes (as said previously) either a white or a red giant.
I think this is pretty fascinating and wanted to share it with you. I hope you've enjoyed it!
Most information taken from: Amazing Space and Chandra.
More about Death stars, Nebulas, Destruction
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