Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two 'peculiar' white dwarfs may help unlock supernova formula

Does every star go nova? No. So which stars do and which don't? Depends on the mass. And a couple of "peculiar" white dwarfs, that "look very different from any white dwarfs we've ever seen before," may help us determine more precisely what mass is required for a star to go nova. (New Scientist)

The dwarfs being studied have more oxygen than carbon, which is unusual. Oxygen is tough to make. Oxygen production "requires a nuclear furnace fiercer than that needed for a carbon-rich mixture," so the stars that created these white dwarfs must have been very close to the line where dying stars either go nova, or turn into a white dwarf.

Conventional wisdom suggests stars between seven and ten-times the mass of our sun go nova. By studying these new white dwarfs, we may be able to "pin down the threshold more precisely."

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.