Physics and Astronomy
Historically, little was understood about new stars, ‘novae’, appearing in the night sky for a few weeks before fading forever; seen as ones and harbingers, they fascinated astronomers. In modern times, supernovae still captivate astronomers, even as we understand much more about their origin; the outcome of a star finally losing its billion year struggle against gravity. When finally its death is marked by an enormous explosion, they can outshine 100 billion of its neighbours.
Not only does an understanding of stellar evolution and supernovae help us understand the abundances of elements that we see in the universe, they can also be used to shine a light across the Cosmos, illuminating dark matter and dark energy.