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Stellar Explosion

15 June 2016

  In the June 2016 issue of Scientific American Daniel Kasen of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has focused on developing new theoretical and computer models to explain the various types of supernovae.

Roughly every second, somewhere in the observable universe, a star is destroyed in a stellar explosion – as a result of collisions or supernova, or an engagement with a black hole. Astronomers are trying to figure out what drives these strange events. However, he begins his modelling by saying, a star is a type of stable nuclear reactor. It is also a massive ball of plasma bound together by gravity and powered by nuclear fusion in its compressed core. The heat from fusion provides and pressure that constricts the pull of gravity. A supernova explosion represents some kind of catastrophic instability within the balance of the forces involved.

Jill Abery forwarded the article and suggested the image in Scientific American resembled a cosmic auroral display – an electrical phenomenon. David Kasen says that during a supernova event a vast amount of maganetic energy pours out of a 'rapidly spinning neutron star' at the centre. Jill suggests that when she did physics magnetism and a spinning object could not be divorced from an electric current. So, what is at the root of supernova explosions?

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