Towards a Definitive Model of Core-Collapse Supernova Explosions

PI Name: 
Adam Burrows
Princeton University
Allocation Program: 
Allocation Hours at ALCF: 
1.75 Million
Research Domain: 

Core-collapse supernovae dramatically announce the death of massive stars and the birth of neutron stars. During this violent process, a combination of high-density nuclear physics, multi-dimensional hydrodynamics, radiation transport, and neutrino physics determines whether and how the star explodes. However, though it is thought that capturing a small fraction of the neutrinos emitted during collapse powers such explosions, and though detailed 2D simulations provide strong supporting evidence, detailed 3D calculations that prove this to be the case are lacking. Lack of access to sufficient computational resources has hindered progress toward the demonstration of a robust explosion mechanism since the 1960s. 

This INCITE project addresses whether and how 3D supernova explosion models differ from their 2D counterparts. The researchers will use the new state-of-the-art, highly scalable, 3D radiation-hydrodynamics simulation code Fornax to determine if the neutrino mechanism is a robust explanation for supernova explosions and the stellar progenitor dependence of their observables, resolving a fifty-year-old problem in nuclear astrophysics.

A solution will benefit ongoing efforts of observers and instrument designers in the U.S. and around the world engaged in projects to determine the origin of the elements, measure gravitational waves, and interpret laboratory nuclear reaction rate measurements in light of stellar nucleosynthesis.