Supernova Explosion

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Currently, our sun is fusing the nuclei of hydrogen together to form helium. However, the sun's mass is not large enough to cause the synthesis of a significant amount of heavier elements, so when its nuclear fuel of hydrogen is exhausted in about 5 billion years, it will stop the production of heat and light and gradually cool down to form a white dwarf, eventually becoming a brown dwarf or even a dark dwarf. If a star's mass is larger than 1.4 times that of the

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Figure 1.6. The cosmic abundance of elements. Note that carbon is the fourth-abundant element and the most abundant solid element.

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Atomic Number = Proton Number = Electron Number

Figure 1.6. The cosmic abundance of elements. Note that carbon is the fourth-abundant element and the most abundant solid element.

Sun, its nuclear synthesis will proceed until it just begins to form iron. In this case, the dying star will contain concentric zones made of increasingly heavier elements (Fig. 1.7). Upon the exhaustion of fusible fuels, the star cannot produce enough energy to sustain its size so the outer layer will collapse instantly. This implosion may smash against the iron core with such a shocking pressure that most electrons surrounding protons would fuse together to form neutrons instantaneously.

During nuclear fusion, a star generates energy by combining electrons and protons in light elements to form neutrons at a slower rate. Even so, the energy formed from the loss of mass can be a tremendous amount as calculated by Einstein's equation,

Figure 1.7. The onion-like structure of a large white dwarf. Note that carbon is buried deep inside and has the potential to form into diamond. The mass of a typical white dwarf is about one million times that of Earth, so the amount of diamond in such a star may easily overshadow the entire Earth.

E = mc2. In the case of the implosion of a massive star when it uses up its nuclear fuels, the sudden surge of pressure and temperature could break most iron atoms. As a consequence outer electrons will be squeezed into the nucleus when they combine with protons to form neutrons almost simultaneously. The result would be the formation of a gigantic soup of neutrons known as a neutron star. A neutron star has a density as high as a nucleus (1014 g/cc), so if you weighed a piece the size of a grape it weighs over 100 million tons!

The energy to create hydrogen fusion in a star is created by combining an electron with a proton to form a neutron one by one. The formation of a neutron star is likely to achieve nuclear fusion 100 billion times faster than an ordinary star. Hence, once a neutron star is formed, the amount of energy must be released in a hurry. The result is a gigantic explosion that expels more than 90% of its outer materials into space as stellar dusts. This spectacular astronomical phenomenon is known as a supernova explosion. After the explosion, the supernova can outshine for weeks an entire galaxy that contains about 100 billion stars.

Supernova explosions occur periodically in each galaxy (hundreds of such cosmic glares have been recorded in human history).

Figure 1.8. The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a supernova that exploded in 1054. This explosion was so violent that Chinese astronomers recorded it as "the guest star" that appeared in bright daylight like a full moon for more than a week. As diamond might be formed in a thick crust on this supernova, the shattered star could send ample nanodiamond dust into space.

Figure 1.8. The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a supernova that exploded in 1054. This explosion was so violent that Chinese astronomers recorded it as "the guest star" that appeared in bright daylight like a full moon for more than a week. As diamond might be formed in a thick crust on this supernova, the shattered star could send ample nanodiamond dust into space.

The explosion will release carbon and oxygen that is otherwise locked up inside a supernova. The condensation of the expelled debris will make latter generation stars richer in heavy elements. Our sun was one such star formed on the ashes of a previous supernova. The entire Earth was also built on such cinders of cosmic violence.

The diamond that was formed on the outside of heavier elements inside a supernova was shattered during the gigantic explosion to form nanodiamond dusts that scattered in the interstellar region. In our solar system, such nanodiamonds are found trapped inside asteroids or even comets. Some meteorites found on Earth do contain nanodiamonds that contain isotopes traceable to their pre-solar origins.

Dusts expelled out from an exploded supernova may condense to form second generation stars and planets. Due to the recompression of already formed carbon atoms, diamond rich stars or planets may be omnipresent in regions where matters are dense, such as closer to the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

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