What Happens When a Star Dies?


Quick Answer

There are multiple possible outcomes when a star dies, depending on how large the star was. Smaller stars may form white dwarfs or neutron stars, while more massive stars usually explode in a supernova, which can result in either the creation of a neutron star or black hole.

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Full Answer

Stars the size of the sun eventually cool and expand to form a red giant. These stars then eject matter, which collects around the red giant to form a nebula. As the red giant cools, it then shrinks into a white dwarf and eventually end as a black dwarf. This process happens to any star that is less than 1.3 times the size of the sun.

Stars that are up to three times the mass of the sun collapse to form neutron stars, while any star that is greater than three times the sun's mass explodes into a supernova due to its size. When these stars collapse, nuclear reactions cause a tremendous amount of heat inside their cores, which eventually leads to an explosion of the entire star. When this explosion is large enough, it can create black holes. Some stars can also explode into a nova, which results when only the surface of the star explodes.

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