When Good Stars Go Bang

Computational Astrophysics Consortium - Supernovae, Gamma-Ray Bursts, and Nucleosynthesis

Stan Woosley (project webpage)
University of California at Santa Cruz

In our struggles to understand the universe and our place in it, mankind has often looked to the stars. Today, thanks to an array of powerful tools and clever experiments, the stars are telling us more than ever about the evolution of the universe and the creation of the elements needed for life. Theoretical high-energy astrophysics studies the most violent explosions in the universe-- supernovae (the massive explosions of dying stars) and gamma ray bursts (mysterious blasts of intense radiation). The evolution of massive stars and their explosion as supernovae and/or gamma ray bursts describes how the "heavy" elements needed for life, such as oxygen and iron, are forged (nucleosynthesis) and ejected to later form new stars and planets. The Computational Astrophysics Consortium will simulate these explosive phenomena and advance our understanding of not only the evolution of stars but also of nucleosynthesis and the mysterious “dark energy” that makes up the majority of our universe. This project follows stars and the explosive phenomena they produce, especially supernovae of all types, gamma-ray bursts, and x-ray bursts. This effort includes a Science Application Partnership on Adaptive Algorithms (PI - John Bell, LBNL) that will develop the software needed for these efforts. The principal science topics are - in order of priority - 1) models for Type Ia supernovae, 2) radiation transport, spectrum formation, and nucleosynthesis in model supernovae of all types; 3) the observational implications of these results for experiments in which DOE has an interest, especially the Joint Dark Energy Mission, Supernova/Acceleration Probe (SNAP) satellite observatory, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and ground based supernova searches; 4) core collapse supernovae; 5) gamma-ray bursts; 6) “hypernovae” from Population III stars; and 7) x-ray bursts. Models of these phenomena share a common need for nuclear reactions and radiation transport coupled to multi-dimensional fluid flow. The Computational Astrophysics Consortium team will meet frequently and plans to share the mentoring of graduate students and postdocs by having them circulate to at least two sites. Principle products will be not only a better first-principles understanding of supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and nucleosynthesis, but also theoretical data bases that will allow the more precise and reliable use of supernovae for cosmological distance determination. Studies of nucleosynthesis in stars and supernovae will be the most complete in the world and will highlight nuclear uncertainties that could be elucidated by a rare isotope facility. Over the next 5 years, this effort will address significant gaps in our understanding and will directly influence the construction of planned and future experiments, to confront the greatest mystery in high-energy physics and astronomy today – the nature of dark energy.

This team has, in SciDAC-1, developed and used supernovae simulation codes to study Type 1A and core-collapse supernovae. The studies in SciDAC-1 were at small scale and need to be extended across a broader range of length scales and densities to test scaling relations.

Science Application: Computational Astrophysics

Project Title: Computational Astrophysics Consortium: Supernovae, Gamma Ray Bursts, and Nucleosynthesis. Includes a Science Application Partnership - Computational Astrophysics Consortium: Adaptive Algorithms (Bell)

Principal Investigator: Stan Woosley
Affiliation: University of California at Santa Cruz

Project Webpage: http://www.supersci.org/

Participating Institutions and Co-Investigators:
Johns Hopkins University - Dan Kasen
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - Ann Almgren, John Bell and Peter Nugent
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - Rob Hoffman, Louis Howell, and Jason Pruet
Los Alamos National Laboratory - Alex Heger
Stanford University - Roger Blandford
University of California at Berkeley - Jon Arons, Richard Klein, Chris McKee, and Saul Perlmutter
University of Arizona - Adam Burrows and Ivan Hubeny
University of California at Santa Cruz - Stan Woosley (PI), Gary Glatzmaier and Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz

Funding Partners: Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research, High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and the National Nuclear Security Agency

Budget and Duration: Approximately $1.9 Million per year for five years 1

Other SciDAC physics efforts

1Subject to acceptable progress review and the availability of appropriated funds


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