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07.16.12 News
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Peering Into The Heart Of A Supernova

Each century, about two massive stars in our own galaxy explode, producing supernovae. These stellar explosions send fundamental, uncharged particles called neutrinos streaming our way and generate ripples called gravitational waves in the fabric of space-time. Scientists are waiting for the neutrinos and gravitational waves from about 1,000 supernovae that have already exploded at distant locations in the Milky Way to reach us. Here on Earth, large, sensitive neutrino and gravitational-wave detectors have the ability to detect these respective signals, which will provide information about what happens in the core of collapsing massive stars just before they explode. If we are to understand that data, however, scientists will need to know in advance how to interpret the information the detectors collect. To that end, researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found via computer simulation what they believe will be an unmistakable signature of a feature of such an event: if the interior of the dying star is spinning rapidly just before it explodes, the emitted neutrino and gravitational-wave signals will oscillate together at the same frequency.
Image credit: Steve Drasco