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Supernovae - The Answer

Supernovae - The Answer

The tennis ball will bounce up to a height much higher than from where it started.

This phenomenon occurs because of Conservation of Momentum. This law states that in a system of moving bodies which are not affected by any external forces, the total momentum in the system remains unchanged during interactions between the objects. Simply stated, the total momentum of two objects, before and after a collision will remain unchanged.

collision of billiard balls showing conservation of momentum

Example: If you have ever played pool, recall that the cue ball is made to collide with the other balls on the table. The white ball will stop short when it collides head-on with another ball at rest. The momentum is transferred from the cue ball to the second ball at the point of collision.

Think About!

What do you think this experiment has to do with supernovae? When a massive star explodes, it has reached the end of its life cycle. The collapse of the nucleus of the star leads to the generation of waves throughout the outer layers of the star. The core rebounds by sending the outer layers of the star further out into the galaxy.


A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC

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