OKC colloquium by Sean Couch (Michigan State University)

Understanding Massive Stellar Death: Predictive Simulation of Core-collapse Supernovae


Core-collapse supernovae are the luminous explosions that herald the death of massive stars. While core-collapse supernovae are observed on a daily basis in nature, the details of the mechanism that reverses stellar collapse and drives these explosions remain unclear. I will discuss the recent developments in the study of the supernova mechanism and progress toward a predictive theory of massive stellar death. In particular, I will discuss the important role turbulence is playing in the supernova mechanism and our efforts to develop more realistic initial conditions for supernova simulations with fully 3D massive stellar evolution calculations. Such realistic 3D initial conditions turn out to be favorable for successful explosions, in large part because they result in stronger turbulence behind the stalled supernova shock. I will also discuss the role of ubiquitous rotation and magnetic fields in altering the character of supernova explosions. As the realism of our supernova simulations improves, it is crucial to make connection with observational and experimental data. I will conclude with a discussion of the impacts of improved physics on observational features of supernovae, including on the gravitational wave emission from these stellar explosions.