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To Explode or Not To Explode: Electron Capture Supernovae in Single Stars and Binaries

Arend J. Poelarends, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Wheaton College

Tuesday, September 24, at 3:45 p.m. in SB110.

The standard picture of stellar evolution is that low mass stars evolve into a white dwarf, while high mass stars evolve, through core collapse, into a supernova. The boundary between these two regimes is thought to be around 8 to 10 solar masses.

About thirty years ago some astronomers suggested that this boundary might actually harbor a new class of supernovae, the so-called electron capture supernovae (ECSN). These supernovae do not explode as a result of the depletion of fuel in their cores, but as a result of the capture of electrons in their extremely dense, electron-degenerate cores. As the electrons are being captured, the pressure drops dramatically and the core becomes unstable, resulting in a supernova.

In this talk I will discuss computational models that explore the the likelihood that these ECSN exist, both in our current universe and in the early universe. From these models we can also learn how many of these ECSN there would be, what they would look like, and speculate about even more exotic types of supernovae. I will also present new results on the possibility of ECSN in binary systems and the implication this has for our understanding of the evolution of Be/X-ray binaries.





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