Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Super Supernova: White Dwarf Star System Exceeds Mass Limit

An international team led by Yale University has, for the first time, measured the mass of a type of supernova thought to belong to a unique subclass and confirmed that it surpasses what was believed to be an upper mass limit. Their findings, which appear online and will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, could affect the way cosmologists measure the expansion of the universe.

Cosmologists use Type Ia supernovae—the violent explosions of dead cores of stars called white dwarfs—as a kind of cosmic ruler to measure distances to the supernovae’s host galaxies and, as such, to understand the past and future expansion of the universe and explore the nature of dark energy.

Until recently, it was thought that white dwarfs could not exceed what is known as the Chandrasekhar limit, a critical mass equaling about 1.4 times that of the Sun, before exploding in a supernova. This uniform limit is a key tool in measuring distances to supernovae.

Since 2003, four supernovae have been discovered that were so bright, cosmologists wondered whether their white dwarfs had surpassed the Chandrasekhar limit. These supernovae have been dubbed the “super-Chandrasekhar” supernovae.

Now Richard Scalzo of Yale, as part of a collaboration of American and French physicists called the Nearby Supernova Factory, has measured the mass of the white dwarf star that resulted in one of these rare supernovae, called SN 2007if, and confirmed that it exceeded the Chandrasekhar limit. They also discovered that the unusually bright supernova had not only a central mass, but a shell of material that was ejected during the explosion as well as a surrounding envelope of pre-existing material. The team hopes this discovery will provide a structural model with which to understand the other supermassive supernovae.

Using observations from telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and California, the team was able to measure the mass of the central star, the shell and the envelope individually, providing the first conclusive evidence that the star system itself did indeed surpass the Chandrasekhar limit. They found that the star itself appears to have had a mass of 2.1 times the mass of the Sun (plus or minus 10 percent), putting it well above the limit.

Being able to measure masses for all parts of the star system tells the physicists about how the system may have evolved—a process that is currently poorly understood. “We don’t really know much about the stars that lead to these supernovae,” Scalzo said. “We want to know more about what kind of stars they were, and how they formed and evolved over time.”

Scalzo believes there’s a good chance that SN 2007if resulted from the merging of two white dwarfs, rather than the explosion of a single white dwarf and hopes to study the other super-Chandrasekhar supernovae to determine whether they, too, could have involved a merger of two white dwarfs.

Theorists continue to explore how stars with masses above the Chandrasekhar limit, which is based on a simplified star model, could exist without collapsing under their own weight. Either way, a subclass of supernovae governed by different physics could have a dramatic effect on the way cosmologists use them to measure the expansion of the universe.

“Supernovae are being used to make statements about the fate of the universe and our theory of gravity,” Scalzo said. “If our understanding of supernovae changes, it could significantly impact of our theories and predictions.”

Other Yale authors of the paper include Charles Baltay and David Rabinowitz.


PRESS CONTACT: Suzanne Taylor Muzzin 203-432-8555

Suzanne Taylor Muzzin | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>