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Astrophysics

Supernova clues from neutrinos

Neutrinos detected by Earth-based observatories could one day help to reveal the sequence of events that occur in supernovae.

When a white-dwarf star becomes too massive to support itself, the internal pressure is thought to trigger a runaway thermonuclear reaction followed by an explosion — known as a Type Ia supernova — but the events involved in the explosion are unknown. Warren Wright at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and his colleagues simulated a supernova and calculated the number of neutrinos it would generate, and the timing of their release, if the star's gravity initially limited the explosion, and the nuclear reaction spread across the star's entire surface before the star exploded.

This would create two distinct neutrino bursts that would be much fainter than the single burst that would be made by a faster explosion, which the team calculated in a previous study published last year. Over time, neutrino observatories searching for supernovae in our Galaxy should be able to use these predictions to tell whether either scenario is accurate, the authors say.

Phys. Rev. D 95, 043006 (2017)

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Supernova clues from neutrinos. Nature 543, 8 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/543008b

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