Supernovae Ignited by Nuclear Fission

11/19/2021 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Chuck Horowitz (IU)
Type of Event (for grouping events):

Type 1A supernovae (SN Ia) are giant stellar explosions that are important distance indicators in cosmology.  Presently there is tension between Hubble constant values determined from SN and other means.  SN Ia are thought to involve white dwarf stars, but it is unclear how they explode.  We propose a new mechanism involving a natural nuclear fission explosion.  White dwarfs cool and eventually crystalize.   Our molecular dynamics simulations find that the first solids to form, as the star cools, are greatly enriched in actinides such as uranium.  This is because actinides have the highest nuclear charge.  These solids may support a fission chain reaction that, in turn, could ignite carbon fusion and explode the star.  This physics parallels that in terrestrial nuclear weapons.  



Host: Gardner

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