Some stars have the element neon to thank for their ultimate, explosive demise, according to astrophysical research.

Astronomers love studying the life cycles of stars, including which stars die in which ways. Less-massive stars, like our Sun, expand and shed their layers as they transition into white dwarfs, while much bigger stars explode in violent supernovae, and their cores turn into black holes or neutron stars. But questions surround the ending of intermediate-size stars that have between seven and 11 times the mass of the Sun. Do they shed their layers or explode? And if they do go supernova, what’s the end product? Understanding these stars in part relies on understanding the behavior of the element neon.

As dying, intermediate-mass stars burn through their hydrogen and resulting helium, simulations have shown that they could form cores made of the elements oxygen, neon, and magnesium. These stars might either lose some of their outer hydrogen envelope and become dim white dwarf stars, or, if the core becomes large enough, collapse into a neutron star.

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