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Sun and Hypernovae: Computer Simulation Opens Up Inner World

Dec 14, 2015 01:52 PM EST

The process behind some of the most powerful explosions in the universe has long remained somewhat of a mystery to scientists, but the inner workings of such phenomena have just come one step closer to full visibility, thanks to computer simulation.

Specifically, scientists have been examining gamma-ray bursts, which are certain types of high-energy star explosions believed to be the product of star explosions called hypernovae.

To better understand the process of hypernovae, an international team of researchers created a model of the core of a hypernova during collapse and eruption. 

"We were looking for the basic mechanism, the core engine, behind how a collapsing star could lead to the formation of jets," said computational scientist Erik Schnetter in a release. Schnetter, who works for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, designed the computer model.

"You need to have the right people," Schnetter added in the release, "with the right expertise and the right chemistry between them, you need to have the right understanding of physics and mathematics and computer science, and in the end you need the computer hardware that can actually run the experiment."

The computer simulation took place over the course of two weeks on the Blue Waters supercomputer, which is located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The simulation indicated that a turbulence-driven dynamo may lie at the core of hypernovae, according to a statement.

The revelation that came from the 3D computer simulation was that of magnetic energy which lay at the center of spinning stars. After a certain amount of build-up, jets would launch from the stellar poles. The testing should help pave the way for more specialized simulations to better understand other variables at play.

The implications of the study are hard to calculate, given the enormous connection between exploding stars and the formation of galaxies and life in our universe. Our sun is known to have descended from supernovae.

"These are some of the most powerful events in the universe," Schnetter said in the release. "Who wouldn't want to know more about that?"

The study is published in the journal Nature.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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