Supernovas and Star Death
Stars are born, live and die just like everything else in the universe. When these massive, celestial nuclear reactors run out of fuel, they go dark in the same way a fire goes out when it runs out of logs to burn. Extinguishing a star, however, is a far more extensive and explosive process than putting out a campfire.
When a star runs out of fuel, it begins to expand. It can swell to be several times its usual size. Then, it explodes outward with a massive burst of light, radiation, gas and dust. This explosion is called a supernova and is visible millions of light years away. Supernovas are often plainly visible in the night sky because stars will suddenly become much brighter than usual, or an entirely new star will appear in the sky because its light is suddenly powerful enough to reach Earth. Then, the star fades away. The sudden appearance and disappearance of supernovas, as well as their incredible brightness, has led some people to theorize that the Star of Bethlehem was a supernova.
Beyond the story of Christ’s birth, supernovas and star death fit neatly with Christian ideas about the end of the world. According to Revelations 6, when the sixth seal is opened “the sun [will turn] black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon [will turn] blood red, and the stars in the sky [will fall] to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens [will recede] like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island [will be] removed from its place.” This chain of events is a reasonably accurate description of what will happen to Earth when the sun, like every star, eventually dies. As the sun dies, its light will decrease, and it will dim as it runs out of fuel. Then, it will expand and swallow Mercury and Venus. The gravity of the sun will strip away Earth’s atmosphere, causing the heavens to “recede.” The moon will be superheated, turning it red, while solar wind might well push debris toward Earth and causing massive showers of meteorites. This could be considered to be the falling stars, or Revelations could be referring to the layers of gas and dust the sun will leave behind as it contracts once more. If Earth survived at all, the planet would be completely uninhabitable and completely unrecognizable. The massive gravity of the sun would have torn at the tectonic plates of the Earth, thus removing “every mountain and island…from its place.”