The Death of Stars

9 Jun, 2022 520 Astronomy

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the abrupt transformation of stars after shining brightly for millions or billions of years, once they lack the fuel to counter the force of gravity. Those like our own star, the Sun, become red giants, expanding outwards and consuming nearby planets, only to collapse into dense white dwarves. The massive stars, up to fifty times the mass of the Sun, burst into supernovas, visible from Earth in daytime, and become incredibly dense neutron stars or black holes. In these moments of collapse, the intense heat and pressure can create all the known elements to form gases and dust which may eventually combine to form new stars, new planets and, as on Earth, new life.

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Martin Rees 9 episodes
    Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Carolin Crawford 20 episodes
    Emeritus Member of the Institute of Astronomy and Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
  • Mark Sullivan No other episodes
    Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Southampton

Reading list

  • Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe
    Mitchell Begelman and Martin Rees (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Our Universe: An Astronomer's Guide
    Jo Dunkley (Pelican, 2020) Google Books →
  • Supernova
    Or Graur (MIT Press, 2022) Google Books →
  • Zwicky: The Outcast Genius who Unmasked the Universe
    John Johnson (Harvard University Press, 2019)
  • Stars: A Very Short Introduction
    Andrew King (Oxford University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos
    Robert P. Kirshner (Princeton University Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
    Katie Mack (Allen Lane, 2020) Google Books →
  • Vera Rubin: A Life
    Jacqueline Mitton and Simon Mitton (Belknap Press, 2021) Google Books →
  • Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation
    Carl Sagan (Little, Brown, 1983) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: m0018128

Episode page:

Auto-category: 520 (Astronomy and astrophysics)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Across the universe, stars have been dying for billions of years.