Letter | Published:

Gravitational radiation from supernova neutrino bursts

Nature volume 274, pages 565566 (10 August 1978) | Download Citation



SUPERNOVAE, the violent collapses of massive stars into neutron stars, are considered to be the strongest known sources of gravitational radiation. The quadrupole (and higher) moments of the hydrodynamic motions of the infalling matter generate the radiation. A burst of neutrinos of total energy 0.1 Mc2 and of duration between 10−3 and 1 s is thought to accompany the collapse1. If this burst has nonspherical angular distribution, it will generate additional gravitational radiation— possibly comparable in magnitude to that caused by the collapse. That the neutrino burst might produce gravitational waves had been overlooked until recently, when Epstein suggested the idea2. This problem is of interest in its own right because a massless field is acting as the source of a radiation field. In electromagnetism there are no charged, massless particles; in fact, the existence of such a particle would lead to infrared divergences3. The gravitational effects of neutrinos have been studied previously2,4–6, but the approach we report here is new and has a nice analogue in electromagnetism. The emission of a neutrino is a quantum process and so we use the zero frequency limit (ZFL) quantum technique of Weinberg3 to obtain a classical source which gives correct results in this limit. Because the time scale of the burst (10−3–1 s) is much longer than that of the neutrino emission process (10−22 s) only the ZFL is needed in the calculation. The ZFL technique has been used in an analogous way in electromagnetism to calculate the electromagnetic radiation accompanying β-decay or electron capture7. Smarr has applied the ZFL method to the gravitational bremsstrahlung process8.

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    Enrico Fermi Institute Preprint No. 76–64 (1976).

  2. 2.

    The Generation of Gravitational Radiation by Escaping Supernova Neutrinos (MIT Preprint, 1978).

  3. 3.

    Phys. Rev. 140, B516–524 (1965); Gravitation and Cosmology 260–266 (Wiley, New York, 1972).

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    Nature 171, 260–261 (1953).

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    , & Phys. Rev. 137, B1364–B1368 (1965).

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    Acta phys. pol. 27, 831–841 (1965).

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    Classical Electrodynamics 725–727 (Wiley, New York, 1975).

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    Phys. Rev. D15, 2069–2077 (1977).

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  1. Institute of Theoretical Physics, Department of Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305



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