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8 incredible images of dead and dying stars

By: Katherine Butler on April 17, 2012, 6:34 p.m.
Exploding supernova

Photo: Shutterstock

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Life and death

Looking up into a starry sky, it seems as if the elements of the universe are endless — but that’s not the case. A star has a natural life span; how and when it dies depends on its mass. Gigantic stars burst into supernovas, which “can briefly outshine entire galaxies and radiate more energy than our sun will in its entire lifetime.” On the other hand, when a super massive star dies, its remnant core can be so dense that it creates a black hole.

Others go more quietly. Because our sun isn’t as massive as some other stars, it is expected to swell up into a red giant in a few billion years (likely enclosing the Earth) before it cools into a white dwarf. Pictured here are white dwarf stars imaged by JPL's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Ultimately, what seems to be true for most stars is that they die spectacularly brilliant deaths. Thanks to projects such as NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, we’re able to see them as never before. (Text: Katherine Butler)