How massive stars explode remains a mystery; However, recent work led by Michigan State University may bring some answers to this astronomical question
Giant stars die a violent death. After a life of several million years, they collapse into themselves and then explode in what is known as a supernova.
How these stars explode remains a mystery. However, recent work led by Michigan State University may bring some answers to this astronomical question.
In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the team details how it developed a three-dimensional model of a giant star's last moments.
"This is something that has never been done before," said Sean Couch, an MSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy and lead author of the paper. "This is a significant step toward understanding how these stars blow up."
The ongoing problem is that, until now, researchers have only been able to do this in one-dimension. Nature, of course, is three-dimensional.
"We were always using one-D models that don't actually occur in nature," Couch said.
What allowed the researchers to break the 3-D barrier is new developments in technology. "There are new resources, both hardware and software, that allow this to now be feasible," Couch said.
Until now, computer models did not match what was observed in the real world.
"We just couldn't get the darn things to blow up," he said. "And that was a problem because that's what happens in nature. It was telling us that we were missing something."
The other problem the 3-D model addresses is the actual shape of the star. Older computer models yielded stars that were perfectly spherical. However, that is not what real stars look like, and this new work shows that the messy details matter for understanding supernova explosions.
Millions of years of nuclear burning in massive stars results in central cores made of inert iron. This iron cannot be used by the star as fuel. Eventually, without any fuel source, the star collapses from its own tremendous gravitational pull.
"This is what we see in our simulation process," Couch said. "The iron core building up to where it can no longer support itself and down it comes."
He said the development of the 3-D model is an early stop in pinning down the reasons why stars explode, but could completely change the way scientists approach the supernova mechanism.
Other members of the research team are Emmanouil Chatzopoulos of the University of Chicago; W. David Arnett from the University of Arizona; and F.X. Timmes from Arizona State University.
Couch and Timmes also are affiliated with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, a National Science Foundation-funded center partly housed at MSU which studies how the elements found throughout the universe first came to be.
Parts of this work also were carried out at the California Institute of Technology prior to Couch joining MSU.
Tom Oswald | EurekAlert!
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy