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3D Supernova Simulation! September 27, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, supernova.
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What’s a simulation? It’s a computer model, usually of a complicated system, that can’t be solved using pencil and paper. You tell the computer what the physical laws are, usually in the form of differential equations, and let the computer try to solve them.  They are also used in design and prototypes of airplanes, buildings and complicated systems. Simulations are also used in cases where doing lab measurement might not be possible, think nuclear detonations, and their big brother, type Ia Supernova.

Type Ia supernova are thought to be caused by a white dwarf stealing mass from a companion star. If it exceeds Chandrasakar’s limit of 1.4 Solar Masses, it will start to compress and detonate. They have found a new importance in astronomy as standard candles to measure distance. It is thought that since they detonate at the same mass they will have the same brightness. They’ve been used to measure Hubble’s constant in the distance past and are the foundation for the existence of the accelerated universe and the existence of dark energy.  BUT  it not KNOWN if all behave the same. Maybe small variations of  chemical abundance or rotation change the energy given off by the supernova. That’s were the simulations are important.

3D simulations take a big computer. The computational requirements can go up like the 4th power of the grid size (how finely divided do chop up a linear dimension in the star). So up until this point most simulations have been 2D or 1D. When simulations went from 1D to 2D new physics appeared. Asymmetric explosions and other effects not seen in simpler simulations. It is expected that going to 3D we’ll be able to see new effects. If you are interested in Computational Physics, Eastern has a an option in its physics major. Contact either me ( Dr. Conwell) or Dr. Zou for more information.

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