Supernova Explosions Simulated With Complex Computer Code
January 9, 2013

Complex Computer Code Used To Simulate Core-Collapse Supernovae

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Wanting to bridge the gap between what is known about exploring stars and the remnants left behind thousands of years later, two University of Texas at Arlington students and their colleagues are trying something new — using SNSPH, a complex computer code developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The two students, Carola I. Ellinger, a post-doctoral researcher at UT Arlington, and Sangwook Park, an assistant professor in the College of Science´s physics department, presented the findings of their study at the American Astronomical Society meeting this past week in Long Beach, California. The team's presentation focused on first efforts to use SNSPH, a parallel 3-dimensional radiation hydrodynamics code written in 2005, to create 3D simulations of a core-collapse supernova evolving into remnants.

“There are a lot of numerical simulations for the explosion of the supernova and a lot of simulations of the blast wave expanding into interstellar medium, but there was no useful work connecting the two, even though the physics are connected,” said Park. “Now, we are using the most appropriate program we know to do that."

Nearly three-quarters of all supernovae are core-collapse types. These are the types of star explosions that create black holes and neutron stars. The history and landscape of the Universe, including the distribution of minerals and the formation of planets, can be studied in core-collapse supernovae. Researchers typically focus on either the explosion or the remnants. These new models, though still in the initial phases, will help reveal the detailed nature of the two features of a supernova remnant - characteristics that arose in instabilities during the explosion and those that were created in the interaction with surrounding medium.

The simulations will eventually be used to interpret X-ray data from NASA´s Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as other missions, such as the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, launched in 2012, Dr. Ellinger hopes.

“Dr. Park and Dr. Ellinger are taking existing tools, looking at the rapidly expanding field of astronomy data and finding new ways to use the two together. This kind of creative thinking is a model for UT Arlington students and fellow scientists,” said Pamela Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science.

The new work with SNSPH was made possible by the wealth of data collected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory showing the composition of supernova remnants. This increasingly detailed data allows scientists studying supernova remnants in the Milky Way to differentiate between debris that was ejected from the exploded star, also called the progenitor, and the pre-existing ambient material that was swept up in the blast wave.