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Super Stars – Science Nation

Super Stars – Science Nation


MILES O’BRIEN: This is a computer-generated
image of an explosion deep inside a star. It’s not a run-of-the-mill thermonuclear explosion
that fuels a healthy star. Instead, it’s the kind of explosion that seals it’s
fate. It’s called a supernova. ADAM BURROWS: The rest of the star, it’s surface
and most of it’s mass, is completely oblivious to it’s impending fate. That explosion. which will
take on the order of just a few seconds, will propagate through the star on periods
of hours to a day. MILES O’BRIEN: With help from the National
Science Foundation, Princeton University Astrophysicist Adam Burrows uses supercomputers
to create 3D images of supernovae that allow him to peer inside stars
just before they explode. ADAM BURROWS: One of the things we’ve
discovered is it doesn’t explode as a ring, expanding out. It explodes in tendrils and fingers.
It explodes very turbulently. MILES O’BRIEN: Burrows says it’s important
to learn about supernovae because without them, there would be no us. ADAM BURROWS: Supernovae are important for
a variety of reasons. The material that’s ejected in the supernova mixes with the interstellar
medium. That material will start to collapse. Some of that gas will form the next generation of
stars and you’ll go through the same cycle again. But they’re also the source of many of the
heavy elements of nature. MILES O’BRIEN: Heavy elements like the
calcium in your bones, the fluoride in your toothpaste, or the iron in your blood are all
manufactured in supernovae. And it takes a lot of star power to make
those elements. ADAM BURROWS: Every time they explode,
they give off as much as 10 to the 28 megatons of TNT equivalent in energy. So that’s
one with 28 zeros followed, uh megatons, where a megaton is the explosive equivalent of one of the
largest hydrogen bombs. MILES O’BRIEN: The simulations are created
using complex mathematical models and take months to process. ADAM BURROWS: Being able to understand the
explosions with these simulations, I think, is a milestone in
Theoretical Astrophysics. MILES O’BRIEN: Understanding cosmic superstars
with a little help from supercomputers. For Science Nation, I’m Miles O’Brien.

Comments (2)

  1. I always feel like he sneaks in his name or something.
    Anyways, that was very interesting, though they never once mentioned the term Hypergiants.

  2. Computer models are interesting, and useful for checking the consistency of our models, but they don't replace observations. We still need to verify our models against the real thing.

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