We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Pair-Instability Supernova?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A pair-instability supernova is a special type of supernova, or stellar explosion, occurring only in stars which are very massive (between 130 and 250 solar masses), have low to moderate rotation rates, and low metallicity (primarily made of hydrogen and helium). In a pair-instability supernova, the star's core is so extremely energetic that collisions between gamma rays and atomic nuclei result in the spontaneous creation of electron-positron pairs, siphoning away much of the thermal energy and leading to a drop in pressure. This pressure drop results in the star partially collapsing due to gravity.

Collapse regions are quickly superheated to extreme temperatures and pressures, causing the rapid fusion of atomic nuclei and tremendous energy release. The resulting thermal energy is so huge that it blows the star completely apart, leaving behind nothing behind. All other supernovae leave behind black hole or neutron star remnants.

Pair-instability supernovae are thought to be rare today, with only one candidate noted in recent astronomical history: SN 2006gy, which was called "the brightest stellar explosion ever recorded." It was ten times more powerful than a supernova, and like other like supernovae explosions was referred to as a hypernova. Some scientists have proposed that pair-instability supernovae might leave behind a quark star remnant, but this is unconfirmed.

Although pair-instability supernovae are rarely observed in the present, it is thought that they were very numerous in the distant past, among the primordial, supermassive, low-metallicity Population III stars. These are the first stars to come into being after the 100 million year period of darkness following the Big Bang. They are sufficiently old and distant to be practically unobservable using our current telescope technology, although the James Webb Space Telescope has imaged ancient light thought to be the faint glow of Population III stars.

Eta Carinæ is a star in our galaxy with so much mass (100-150 solar masses) that it may explode in a pair-instability supernova at the end of its life. Being only 4,500 light years away from the Earth, if it were to explode, it would be so bright that it would be possible to read at night using its light. The supernova would even be visible during the day, like the Moon. Fortunately, it would still not be energetic enough to significantly damage Earth's atmosphere.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.