Scientists estimate that stars explode once every 50 years in a galaxy of comparable size to our own, the Milky Way. Exploding stars, called supernovae, can become a billion times more bright than the sun at their peak though generally they are brightest within a few days. The explosion occurs at the end of the life cycle of a star at least eight times more massive than the sun and it releases a supernova remnant, a far-reaching shockwave of gas and dust, that scientists believe spread the heavier elements, like iron and gold, around the universe.
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