Difference Between Nova and Supernova (With Table)

Both Nova and Supernova are two phenomenons of the universe. Nova is a star that suddenly becomes very bright and then slowly returns to its original brightness level over few weeks, which can also be extended to over many years. On the other hand, Supernova is a very rare celestial feature that involves the explosion of most of the material present in a star, resulting in a very bright, short-lived object that releases enormous amounts of energy.

Nova vs Supernova

The main difference between Nova and Supernova is that Supernova releases much more mass as compared to that of Nova. The mass which is emitted from Supernova is more than that of the Sun as well. And as the mass which is excreted from the Supernova is a bit too much, it disrupts the host start. That is why Supernova destroys its host star, but Nova does not.

A nova is a provisional, transient astronomical phenomenon that causes the unexpected or sudden appearance of a bright, supposedly “new” star, which slowly fades over several weeks or many months. Causes of the climactic appearance of a nova differ, depending on the circumstances of the two-parent stars. The literal meaning of the word nova was derived from the Latin “Novus,” or “new”.

A supernova is a powerful and luminescent stellar explosion. This temporary astronomical phenomenon happens during the last evolutionary stages of a massive star or when a white dwarf is triggered into runaway nuclear fusion. Supernovas are difficult to be spotted in our Milky Way Galaxy. This happens because the dust blocker disrupts the view. It is mostly spotted in other universes.

Comparison Table Between Nova and Supernova

Parameters of Comparison



Mass Discharge

Releases less Mass.

Releases huge amounts of mass.

Energy Discharge

Releases less Energy.

Releases massive amounts of energy.


Occurs often and more frequently.

Does not occurs often.

Place of Occurrence

It can occur more than once in the same place.

It does not occur in the same place more than once.

Behaviour towards the host star

Do not destroy the host star.

Destroys the host star

What is Nova?

Nova, plural Novus or Novas, is a momentary celestial phenomenon that provokes the sudden appearance of a bright, possibly a “new” star that gently fades over several weeks or many months, which can also get extended to few years. The most common types of Nova are Classical nova eruptions. They are formulated in a close binary star system, which consists of a white dwarf and either a red giant star or main sequence or a subgiant.

When the orbital period falls in the span of several days to a single day, the white dwarf is near enough to its mate star to begin drawing accreted matter onto the exterior of the white dwarf, which creates a compact, dense but shallow atmosphere.

This atmosphere around the nova mostly is composed of hydrogen, is thermally heated by the hot white dwarf star, and ultimately reaches a critical temperature producing ignition of rapid runaway fusion.

Nova creates less mass and also releases less amount of energy. And as it does not emit much energy or mass, the occurrence of nova does not lead to the destruction of the host star. Nova can happen more than once in the same position.

The literal meaning of the word nova was derived from the Latin “Novus,” or “new”.

What is Supernova?

A supernova happens wherever there is a shift or any altercation in the core or centre of a star. The change can be of two types. The first one can be where there are binary star systems. And the second type is where a supernova can be created by either core implosion or chemical imbalance.

When a supernova is created, it destroys the host star. This happens because, during the time of formation, the Supernova emits energy in huge amounts, which disrupts the balance of the host star. Moreover, a supernova discharges a huge amount of mass.

Supernovae can be classified as Type I and Type II. These types are determined based on the chemical reactions which occur during the formation. Supernova does not take place in the same place more than once. A supernova lasts longer as compared to that of a nova.

Because of the dust blocks, we cannot see many supernovas in our Milky Way galaxy. The last Supernova was observed in the year 1604 by Johannes Kepler.

Scientists can understand and know a lot about the universe just by studying Supernova, even though it burns for a short period. Scientists have concluded that supernovas play a pivotal role in distributing components and particles throughout the universe.

Main Differences Between Nova and Supernova

  1. A supernova releases much more amount of mass as compared to that nova.
  2. Nova can occur in the same place, unlike Supernova.
  3. Supernova emits huge amounts of energy, whereas nova emits lesser amounts of energy.
  4. A supernova after formation destroys the host star, whereas nova does not destroy its host star.
  5. Nova occurs very often as compared to that of a supernova.


The universe is indeed full of mysteries, and we humans are able only to unleash a few of its secrets. Nova and Supernova are among those few things which humans have figured out a bit. Many times these two phenomenons are mistaken to be the same. But they are very different from each other. And one of the most important differences is that a supernova emits a huge amount of energy leading to the destruction of the host star, whereas, in the case of nova, nothing similar happens.

Scientists and space observers usually notice and observe few novae each year, but Supernova is hardly detected. Moreover, a supernova continues longer when compared to a nova. A nova lasts only for a few weeks or even less.

But there is one thing common in Supernova and nova. That is, they both are two very crucial and pivotal phenomenon responsible for the distribution of elements throughout the universe.


  1. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1988ComAp..12..131V