How It Works

What percentage of stars go supernova?

Going Supernova

We can’t be specific, but it’s without a doubt much less than one per cent. Stars that end their lives in supernova explosions must have at least eight times the mass of the Sun, so that they blow up into a supergiant star and then violently collapse, instead of gently shedding their outer layers and fizzling out like smaller stars do. The reason we can’t be sure of a percentage is partly because we don’t fully understand how such massive stars form and develop through their lives (sometimes in ways that stop them becoming supernovas), and partly because we’ve only a vague idea of the quantity of much fainter and lower-mass stars that massively outnumber them in the universe.

Answered by Giles Sparrow.