Would it be pos­si­ble to ride a su­per­nova wave?

All About Space - - Ask Space - Dr Iair Ar­cavi is an Ein­stein fel­low at the Depart­ment of Physics, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia.

Su­per­novae are the ex­plo­sions of stars. Only cer­tain types of stars ex­plode – not to worry, our Sun isn't one of them – and when they do they shine as bright as 100 bil­lion Suns and throw out ma­te­rial at thou­sands of kilo­me­tres per sec­ond. That would be quite the surf to ride!

For most su­per­novae – those which are the ex­plo­sions of mas­sive stars – that ma­te­rial that is fly­ing out is made up of the el­e­ments that the star pro­duced dur­ing its life: he­lium, cal­cium, oxy­gen, car­bon and so on up to iron. Even heav­ier el­e­ments are made in the ex­plo­sion it­self.

In fact, such su­per­novae are the only places we know in the uni­verse where these el­e­ments are cre­ated and re­leased into space. This means that ev­ery cal­cium atom in our bones, ev­ery oxy­gen atom we breath, ev­ery iron atom in our blood – all were part of a su­per­nova, some­time, some­where, and made their way to our bod­ies through the ma­te­rial that gath­ered to make the Sun, the Earth and even­tu­ally us. In that sense we are all made of par­ti­cles that rode a su­per­nova wave at some point in their past!

An abun­dance of dif­fer­ent el­e­ments are jet­ti­soned into space cour­tesy of a su­per­nova

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