Supercomputer-powered supernova simulations shed light on distant explosions

Jul 02, 2014 by Aaron Dubrow
Volume rendering of the entropy of a differentially rotating and highly magnetized progenitor to a supernova in a full 3-D. Red colors indicate high entropy (hot) material while blue represents low entropy (cold) material. Strongly magnetized material is continuously launched from the surface of the proto-neutron star in the center but gets severely distorted such that, instead of a clean jet observed in the ultra-strong magnetic field case, two giant polar lobes are formed. The box size for the visualization is 2000km cubed. Credit: Philipp Moesta, TAPIR, California Institute of Technology

Using the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede supercomputer, Philipp Moesta and Christian D. Ott from the California Institute of Technology succeeded in performing the first 3-D simulations of a collapsing star that takes into account the influence of general relativity and magnetohydrodynamics—the interplay of electrically conducting fluids like plasmas and powerful magnetic fields. The death of these collapsing stars leads to energetic, jet-driven supernova explosions.

Their findings show that the simulations behave very differently in full, unconstrained 3-D compared to the same model simulated with the assumption that stars are sperically symmetrical.

A typical by Ott and Moesta uses six to eight million hours of computer to recreate the death of the star and approximately 200 milliseconds of the star's evolution after the collapse of its core. They typically run their simulations simultaneously on 4,000 computing cores for about two months.

"The final word about what ultimately happens with our 3-D magneto-rotational supernova is not yet spoken," Ott wrote in a Huffington Post article about his recent work. "It could be that the explosion takes off eventually, blows up the entire star, leaving behind the central neutron star. It's also possible that the explosion never gains traction and the stellar envelope falls onto the neutron star, which will then collapse to a black hole. We'll see. We are pushing our simulations further and are ready for moresurprises."

Explore further: A 3-D model of stellar core collapse

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A 3-D model of stellar core collapse

May 02, 2014

(Phys.org) —What happens when massive stars collapse? One potential result is a core-collapse supernova. Astronomers can make observations of such events that tell us what is happening on the surface of ...

Neutron star magnetic fields: Not so turbulent?

May 06, 2014

Neutron stars, the extraordinarily dense stellar bodies created when massive stars collapse, are known to host the strongest magnetic fields in the universe—as much as a billion times more powerful than ...

ISOLDE sheds light on dying stars

Apr 04, 2014

What happens inside a dying star? A recent experiment at CERN's REX accelerator offers clues that could help astrophysicists to recalculate the ages of some of the largest explosions in the universe.

New supernova likely arose from massive Wolf-Rayet star

May 22, 2014

They've been identified as possible causes for supernovae for a while, but until now, there was a lack of evidence linking massive Wolf-Rayet stars to these star explosions. A new study was able to find a "likely" link between this star type and a supernova called SN ...

Magnetar formation mystery solved?

May 14, 2014

Magnetars are the super-dense remnants of supernova explosions. They are the strongest magnets known in the Universe—millions of times more powerful than the strongest magnets on Earth. A team of astronomers ...

Recommended for you

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

56 minutes ago

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

Satellite galaxies put astronomers in a spin

23 hours ago

An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (CNRS/Université de Strasbourg), has studied 380 galaxies and shown that their small satellite galaxies almost always ...

Video: The diversity of habitable zones and the planets

23 hours ago

The field of exoplanets has rapidly expanded from the exclusivity of exoplanet detection to include exoplanet characterization. A key step towards this characterization is the determination of which planets occupy the Habitable ...

User comments : 0