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The University of Tennessee

University of Tennessee | Department of Physics and Astronomy | Theoretical Astrophysic Group

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The Mechanism of Core Collapse Supernovae

Core-collapse supernovae are the death throes of massive stars, more than 8-10 times the mass of our sun. They are a dominant source of elements in the Universe, without which life would be impossible. Our group is focused on ascertaining the core-collapse supernova mechanism - how the explosions of these stars are initiated - and understanding the new elements that are produced in the explosion. Core-collapse supernovae are three-dimensional, multi-physics events. Ultimately, three-dimensional general relativistic radiation magnetohydrodynamics simulations must be performed to ascertain definitively the supernova mechanism and understand the wealth of observations of supernovae. Core-collapse supernovae are driven by neutrinos (radiation) and perhaps magnetic fields. Thermonuclear combustion and the properties of nuclear matter also play roles.

Even on the largest supercomputers available, simulating all of the required physics in full three-dimensions is impossible at present. As a result, our community has investigated core collapse supernovae through simulations which include successively better approximations to the important physics as our understanding and computational technology has advanced. Thus, our group is developing a series of discretizations, solution algorithms, and codes for the solution of the multi-dimensional neutrino (radiation) transport equations and the three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamics and Poisson equations, the latter for the star's self gravity.

Our current plan of attack has three prongs of increasing sophistication and computational cost.

In addition, we investigate the nucleosynthesis that results from these explosions.