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Home > iSGTW - 13 October 2010 > Image of the week - A better supernova model

Image of the week - A better supernova model

This image shows a 3D time series of the development and expansion of the supernova shock. Time is increasing as you move from left to right. The purple surface is an isocontour of entropy while the blue/green surface is an isocontour of density.

Image by Jason Nordhaus and Adam Burrows, Princeton University. Image and caption courtesy of NERSC.

When large stars die out and collapse, they explode, creating a supernova. But when scientists attempted to simulate this process, they got a “fizzle” instead of a “bang.” Until now, scientists simply assumed that there is something fundamental about the physics of supernovae that we didn't understand.

Now scientists may have cracked the problem by using a new approach to create computer simulations of supernovae.

“The new simulations are based on the idea that the collapsing star itself is not sphere-like, but distinctly asymmetrical and affected by a host of instabilities in the volatile mix surrounding its core,” explained a recent press release. “Writing in the Sept. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, Jason Nordhaus and Adam Burrows of Princeton University, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Ann Almgren and John Bell report that the new simulations are beginning to match the massive blow-outs astronomers have witnessed when gigantic stars die.”

Although jokes are often told about the physicist’s propensity for assuming everything is a sphere, they do this with good reason: more complex models are costly to simulate, in terms of computational resources. This research was conducted on the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s Cray XT4 Franklin system, using CASTRO, a program developed by Almgren and Bell, and according to the press release, it wouldn't have been possible without access to a high performance computing facility.

For more information, please visit the original press release.

—Miriam Boon, iSGTW


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