Gravitational collapse

Gravitational collapse

Collapse of a stellar core to a neutron star

These images are based on a three-dimensional, fully relativistic computer simulation computing the formation of a neutron star by the gravitational collapse of a stellar core. This event marks the end of a massive star that has exhausted all its fuel for nuclear fusion. The core, consisting of iron - the final product of the stellar fusion processes -, is collapsing under its own gravity as there is no pressure from nuclear fusion stabilizing the star. Such a core collapse is one of the possibilities to release a supernova explosion. In spite of many decades of research about supernovae they are not yet fully understood.

The images show the collapsing iron core of a massive star, illustrated by its mass density. During the collapse, the density increases (green and red) until the quantum mechanical degeneracy pressure of the neutrons stops the collapse - a fast rotating proto neutron star has formed which emits spiral gravitational waves caused by asymmetric distortions.

C. Ott  (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), L. Rezzolla (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics & Institute for Theoretical Physics, Frankfurt), R. Kähler (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics & Zuse Institute Berlin)

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