back to article Outrageous new means of megastar demise spotted

Most big old stars at the end of their lives tend to go out in a fairly mundane way - either exploding with incredible violence as supernovae, or collapsing into ultradense universe-warping unfeasiblo-gunge as a black hole. But now astronomers say they have seen evidence of a long-hypothesised third path for a large star; that …


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  1. Richard 23

    Who thought up that acronym?

    "Equation of State: SupErNovae trace Cosmic Expansion", or ESSENCE

    Do I detect the hand of AmanfromMars in naming this one?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just one question

    >as to make a supernova seem like a beetle farting

    What sort of beetle are we talking about here?

    1. twelvebore


      An Arcturan Megabeetle of course

    2. Chris Miller

      What sort of beetle?

      Most likely a bombardier beetle:

    3. ZombieApoc

      More of a multi-part question

      > > as to make a supernova seem like a beetle farting

      > What sort of beetle are we talking about here?

      And was it African or European?

    4. keddaw


      Is that on the standard beetle fart scale or the more general insect fart scale?

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What sort of beetle are we talking about here?

      probably a Scarabaeinae - or true dung beetles

    6. Christoph

      What sort of beetle?

      Is that an African beetle or a European beetle?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      My guess: Volkswagen.

    8. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD



      You mean like the "Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster"?

    9. Bill Neal

      El Reg Standards

      I do believe this calls for an amendment to the Register Standards for Weights & Measures. Surley you recall the velocity of sheep in a vacuum???

  3. RW

    Beetle farts? Astroboffinry?

    Dear God in heaven, what have I done to deserve this?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    @Chris W

    The gigantic Egyptian scarab beetle the pushes the sun around the sky, of course!

    Terrible joke, I know.

  5. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    You can tell when someone worked in bomb disposal

    They consider exploding with incredible violence as a supernova to be a fairly mundane way of ending a life.

  6. fidodogbreath

    Misleading headline

    I thought it was a story about Amy Winehouse.

  7. Gianni Straniero


    I trust our region of space (indeed the whole Galaxy) is sufficiently filthy with heavy elements that this sort of thing is unlikely to blow us all to Kingdom Come.

    Still, plenty of other things to worry about. A well-aimed GRB occurring somewhere in the Milky Way might yet scour the Earth clean of all life.

    (As an aside, does anyone else find it interesting that "Milky Way Galaxy" is a rhetorical tautology? No? Just me, then.)

    1. Michael Dunn

      Galaxy and Milky Way

      Yes, Kablooey, but I only realised it when I came to live in Greece!

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    What a scorcher

    So this happening in our home galaxy would have helped explain why no ETs are on the phone, then?

    I'm feeling better living in era where these are unlikely.

  9. Sly

    big bang part two

    the mini big bang... the galaxy destroyer supernova... Hypernova

    This summer in theaters, watch as <insert action hero name> played by <insert action movie actor name> tries against all odds to save the galaxy from impossible odds...

    Mines the one with the dark matter in the pocket

  10. BlueGreen

    cause of sock-knock-pop

    was very curious about the antimatter claims here as I didn't know how it could possibly be produced nor how it could accumulate to cause a significant explosion so, as ever, wiki to the rescue. It seems that antimatter can be produced thusly <>, this article leading on to the actual suspected mechanism in <>, which says something fractionally more prosaic may have happened:

    " For very high mass stars, with mass at least 130 and up to perhaps roughly 250 solar masses, a true pair-instability supernova can occur. In these stars, the first time that conditions support pair creation instability, the situation runs out of control. The collapse [caused by the redirection of energy production from photons, pressure from which keeps the star 'inflated', into the production of antiparticles, which presumably somehow don't] proceeds to efficiently compress the star's core; the overpressure is sufficient to allow runaway nuclear fusion to burn it in a few seconds, creating a thermonuclear explosion. With more thermal energy released than the stars' gravitational binding energy, it is completely disrupted; no black hole or other remnant is left behind."

    So by my reading it's not directly antimatter driven and I really must must must stop getting distracted by Lewis' articles and do some bloody work instead.

    @Chris W: about the size of the turtle at the bottom. P'raps.

  11. yossarianuk

    At least it would be warmer..

    I wonder how the governbent will use this 'new threat' to and remove further civil liberties and monitor our internet usage. I'm sure they will try somehow....

  12. Fred 4

    a New unit of measure?

    are we seeing the birth of a new unit of Vulture measurement???

    a beetle fart = enough force to change the direction of a falling snow flake

    mega-beetle fart = enough force to actually move the beetle generating the fart




    1. Anonymous Coward

      Grand unified theory

      (Beetle farts/human hairs)^Football fields = 42

    2. Steve Roper
      Thumb Up


      The Beetle Fart is now the new El Reg standard unit of force!

  13. Joe User

    Now for the obvious question

    How exactly does a star manage to keep antimatter separate from its normal matter long enough to build up a large quantity?

    1. Captain Thyratron

      It doesn't.

      Rather, the article's explanation of pair-instability supernovae is somewhere between inaccurate and shamefully dishonest.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oh bother, I thought this was going to be about real megastars such as Bonio or Cir Clip Richard.

  15. Captain Thyratron

    A clarification.

    Contrary to the article, pair-instability supernovae aren't "antimatter-driven". Pair production does occur, but it is not the source of the energy in these events.

    Once gamma rays inside the star reach sufficient energy that pair production begins to take place*, the gamma rays don't go as far and the photon pressure they would normally supply to the upper layers of the star decreases, thus causing further collapse, higher temperature, higher-energy gamma rays, and a runaway reaction that causes the star to generate enough heat to overpower the star's ability to hold itself together under gravity. The electron-positron pairs form from gamma rays, and end up as gamma rays when they annihilate with something--the process does not produce energy that wasn't already there in the form of gamma rays. Pair production is merely the mechanism of instability--hence the name "pair-instability supernova"--as it interferes with the propagation of the gamma rays whose photon pressure is vital to the survival of the star.

    *The energy of the gamma ray (E = hf) must exceed twice the rest mass of an electron in order to produce an electron-positron pair. I should probably add, though it is not a major hang-up inside a star, that pair production only takes place in he presence of something like an atomic nucleus; otherwise, the process would violate conservation of momentum as, without the nucleus being there to receive the momentum of the original photon, the electron-positron pair (these particles having mass) must invariably have less momentum than the original gamma ray. Consider the case of a gamma ray whose energy is exactly twice the rest energy of an electron (that is, E = hf = (m_e)*c^2). In this case, the electron-positron pair would have no kinetic energy and thus no momentum whatsoever, even though the gamma ray that produced them had a momentum of p=hf/c.

    1. awomanfromVenus


      That made about as much sense to me as a post from amanfromMars

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Will be the death of us all!

    Secondly, at one time wasn't it somewhat discouraged (if not openly mocked) if someone quoted wiki?

    @yossarianuk: It's only a matter of time now, but don't forget about additional taxes, fees, licenses and tariffs to save the planet from imminent threats of more warming/cooling, partial or total obliteration. Oh yeah, and think of the children...

    Suddenly, I care even less about global warming than I did before (which wasn't much).

  17. Frumious Bandersnatch


    After reading the headline, I thought that was going to be an article about Bono.

    The Darwin awards for 2009 should be out around now, after all.

  18. wsm

    Explosions in space?

    The biggest bangup in years and I must have missed this one. Is it on YouTube?

  19. wayne 8

    Milky Way is not always a galaxy

    sometimes in certain places it is a candy bar which comes from a Mars factory.

    No Snickering, please.

  20. alien anthropologist

    Okay.. who is going to call the Russians and tell them that this time around you need your galaxy to be saved and not just Earth?

  21. TeeCee Gold badge

    Never mind the beetles.

    Being a lazy sod, I'm far more interested in the implied use of matter/antimatter explosions for sock removal.

    If a megastar of this type exploding in our galaxy would knock everyone's socks off, how much antimatter do you think I'd need to easily and reliably remove one pair of socks at a range of somewhere around three meters?

  22. Andy 70
    Paris Hilton

    agreed on the headline being miss-leading

    i had clicked under the pretense that the LHC had found an entertaining way to dispose of celebutards... don't get me wrong, it is interesting reading non-the-less, but with a dissapointing absence of death, dismemberment and such like...

    Paris, for the lack of death of.

  23. Anders Halling


    So it's not total conversion of mass to energy via matter/antimatter, but a fusion burn of a stellar core of several solar masses in, and I quote, "a few seconds".

    Most reasuring.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    Actually it is the mega-farting beetles you need for sock removal - one in each sock.

  25. Chris007

    PlayMobil recreation...

    ...or it never happened

  26. Chris007

    @ wayne 8

    pls stop you're such a malTeaser....

  27. Quirkafleeg


    Did it consume the whole Galaxy?

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