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Beyond Earthly Skies

Very Low Energy Supernovae

24 Mar 2013, 04:57 UTC
Very Low Energy Supernovae
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Massive stars with more than ~8 times the Sun’s mass are known to end their lives in energetic core-collapse supernovae explosions. During the final evolutionary phases of a massive star, silicon in the star’s core undergoes fusion and produces an iron-rich core. When the iron-rich core grows above a certain mass, it can no longer support itself against the crushing force of gravity and undergoes catastrophic collapse. The collapsing core eventually comes to a halt, causing still infalling matter to rebound. This process launches a powerful outward propagating shock wave. By itself, the shock wave does not have sufficient energy to destroy the star in a supernova explosion. Nevertheless, as the core collapses to form a protoneutron star, copious amounts of neutrinos are produced. Neutrinos rarely interact with normal matter and most of the neutrinos that are produced simply escape out of the dying star at the speed of light. However, a small proportion of the neutrinos interacts with and reenergizes the shock wave, providing it with enough energy to cause the star to explode as a supernova.For stars with more than ~20 times the Sun’s mass, a fraction of them do not explode as supernovae. Instead, the protoneutron star ...

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