Music Narrator: This is a very simple activity that models the supernova explosion that takes place at the end of a large star’s life. The only supplies you will need are two balls of different sizes for each person that is participating. A tennis ball and a ping pong ball are perfect for this. If we drop just the tennis ball, it bounces a foot or two. If we drop just the ping pong ball in the same way, it again bounces, but not as high. When we drop them both together, with the ping pong ball stacked on top of the tennis ball, the ping pong ball goes flying off even further, and the tennis ball basically stays where it is. The reason this happens is that when the tennis ball hits the floor, its energy is transferred to the ping pong ball. In this model, the balls represent layers of the star’s atmosphere that are falling inward during its implosion. These falling layers meet the energy from the iron core- represented by the floor in our activity- and rebound, shooting off into space in a dramatic supernova explosion. Music

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Dennis Veasley

17 thoughts on “NASA | Afterschool Universe: Supernova Ball Bounce”

  1. This is an amazingly easy and understandable explanation of supernovas! I have been reading a lot on type IIa supernovas, but never saw it like that. Thanks NASA, now I can explain supernovas to friends without showing any equations!

  2. wow… i never really understood the actual process behind supernovae. This was a very simple & intuitive explanation. Thanks!

  3. @kaishininjou true, but giving 20+ students a basketball and a tennis ball is going to send tennis balls flying all over the place and someone would probably get hurt. If the teacher is the only person doing the demonstration then the basketball and tennis ball would work best, though.

  4. ok if the tennis ball "basically stayed the same" how is it that the ping pong got the energy, the tennis ball "basically stayed the same" remember. wouldnt i see a dramatic height difference somewhere in this system. just wondering outloud

  5. The ping pong ball goes father because it has taken energy from the tennis ball. It take less energy to move the ping pong ball because of it's mass so the change in the tennis ball is minoot. Hope that helped you

  6. This is garbage! What if you take smaller ball a steel ball, would it be the same? It is simply density of materials and mass.

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