I am working on a science fiction story and I'd like a little clarification if possible.
In the story, a star is going to go supernova and the result will be a rapidly spinning pulsar. The issues I have are these :
First, how predictable are supernovas? What I want is for the characters not to realise that this particular star is going to blow until shortly before it does, so it comes as a surprise to them. Is that a feasible thing? I know you can say that a star might go bang sometime soon, but with soon meaning millions of years, but if you were up close to a star that was going to go supernova next month it would be really obvious? And what kind of sun are we talking here? A Red Giant?
Second, what would happen to a planetary system when the star did go supernova? Are all the planets vapourised, or is it possible that they would still be there afterwards? Might people on a planet even survive, if they had enough protection from radiation and such?
Third, from what I've read of supernovae, my mental image is of the star collapsing, then becoming massively bright - billions of times normal - whilst clouds of gas are being blasted up and away from it. And at the end of a few weeks you have a new pulsar. Is that about right? Would there be any other obvious stuff going on at the same time?