Cosmic explosions: A story about paradigms lost

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Dr. Hagai Perets
08/12/2014 - 10:30
Room 301, Physics Bld. 202

The wide diversity of cosmic explosion arise from a variety of complex physical phenomena.  Each one of these cosmic fireworks, be it supernovae, gamma ray burst, stellar collisions or tidal disruptions, is different in nature, but many of them also share many similarities. The study of such explosions had reshaped  science over and over again for thousands of years, breaking the most basic scientific paradigms, building new ones and shedding new light on our understanding of the origin of the universe, its evolution and constituents. I will review the history of supernova research and its breakthroughs and then focus on some of the frontier science done on peculiar types of supernovae discovered in recent years, ranging in orders of magnitude in brightness and time-length. I will discuss the strongly debated progenitors of such cosmic explosions, the main processes involved in their actual production, and their major implications for the evolution of the universe, and I will touch upon the many open questions which they raise. In particular, I will explain how the regular seemingly delicate but shining life of stars eventually leads to their violent explosive death;  how close symbiotic relations between companion stars which exchange materials between them end up in a blasting breakout of a ball of fire, and how all of these can explain our own origins.