The violent birth of neutron stars

Share via AddThis
Posted on June 28, 2013
Fig. 1: For its simulations the MPA team uses supercomputers that belong to the most powerful in the world. (a) CURIE of the TGCC-CEA computer center with 77,184 processor cores and a nominal peak performance of 1.667 Petaflop/s (1 Petaflop = 1 million billion flops). Credit: GENCI/TGCC-CEA (b) SuperMUC of the Leibniz computing center with more than 155,000 processor cores and a nominal peak performance of over 3 Petaflop/s. Credit: LRZ 2012

Fig. 1: For its simulations the MPA team uses supercomputers that belong to the most powerful in the world. (a) CURIE of the TGCC-CEA computer center with 77,184 processor cores and a nominal peak performance of 1.667 Petaflop/s (1 Petaflop = 1 million billion flops). Credit: GENCI/TGCC-CEA (b) SuperMUC of the Leibniz computing center with more than 155,000 processor cores and a nominal peak performance of over 3 Petaflop/s. Credit: LRZ 2012

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics conducted the most expensive and most elaborate computer simulations so far to study the formation of neutron stars at the center of collapsing stars with unprecedented accuracy. These worldwide first three-dimensional models with a detailed treatment of all important physical effects confirm that extremely violent, hugely asymmetric sloshing and spiral motions occur when the stellar matter falls towards the center. The results of the simulations thus lend support to basic perceptions of the dynamical processes that are involved when a star explodes as supernova.

Stars with more than eight to ten times the mass of our Sun end their lives in a gigantic explosion, in which the stellar gas is expelled into the surrounding space with enormous power. Such supernovae belong to the most energetic and brightest phenomena in the universe and can outshine a whole galaxy for weeks. They are the cosmic origin of chemical elements like carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron, of which the Earth and our bodies are made of, and which are bred in massive stars over millions of years or freshly fused in the stellar explosion.

Supernovae are also the birth places of neutron stars, those extraordinarily exotic, compact stellar remnants, in which about 1.5 times the mass of our Sun is compressed to a sphere with the diameter of Munich. This happens within fractions of a second when the stellar core implodes due to the strong gravity of its own mass. The catastrophic collapse is stopped only when the density of atomic nuclei – gargantuan 300 million tons in a sugar cube – is exceeded.

Read more at: Phys.org