Complete Stellar Collapse: Unusual star system proves that stars can die quietly | Science & Technology

University of Copenhagen astrophysicists help explain a mysterious phenomenon, whereby stars suddenly vanish from the night sky. Their study of an unusual binary star system has resulted in convincing evidence that massive stars can completely collapse and become black holes without a supernova explosion.

One day, the star at the center of our own solar system, the Sun, will begin to expand until it engulfs Earth. It will then become increasingly unstable until it eventually contracts into a small and dense object known as a white dwarf.

However, if the Sun were of a weight class roughly eight times greater or more, it would probably go out with a huge bang — as a supernova. Its collapse would culminate into an explosion, ejecting energy and mass into space with enormous force, prior to leaving behind a neutron star or a black hole in its wake.

While this is basic knowledge about how massive stars die, there remains plenty to understand about the starry skies above and the spectacular death of these stars in particular.

New research by astrophysicists at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute presents the strongest evidence to date that very massive stars can succumb with far more stealth and discretion than as supernovae. Indeed, their investigation suggests that, with enough mass, a star’s gravitational pull can be so strong that no explosion takes place upon its death. Instead, the star can go through what is known as a complete collapse.

“We believe that the core of a star can collapse under its own weight, as happens to massive stars in the final phase of their lives. But instead of the contraction culminating into a bright supernova explosion that would outshine its own galaxy, expected for stars more than eight times as massive as the Sun, the collapse continues until the star becomes a black hole,” explains first author Alejandro Vigna-Gómez, who was a postdoc at the Niels Bohr Institute when this study set in motion.

This discovery is…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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