Let's Make a Supernova!

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This fun and simple hands-on astronomy activity lets learners explore what happens when a star explodes. Participants imagine themselves inside a large star at the end of its life, just as it is about to go supernova. This activity simulates the momentum transfer from the denser material of the core (represented by the tennis balls) to the lighter material of the outer layers (represented by the ping-pong balls) after the star's core collapses. The pdf contains step-by-step instructions, photos, presentation tips, and links to background information.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
Under 5 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Tennis Balls
  • Ping-pong balls
  • Uncooked Salad Macaroni (Optional)
  • Spool (Optional)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elements and Periodic Table
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2008