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The super-supernova SN2007bi


Mick UK
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Look at 2006gy too.

Pair production instability can release many times more energy than normal supernovae (either Type I or Type II) but not enough to account for the most energetic gamma ray bursts ...

The energy source for a pair production supernova is not actually the matter-antimatter reaction - the energy in the core is so intense that many of the photons spontaneously decay into electron-positron pairs, which of course recombine with the production of a new photon ... the point is that the reaction reduces the adiabatic exponent below 4/3, leading to a thermonuclear runaway in which much of the star (around 10 solar masses of an initial 100 solar mass object) is converted to nickel 56, whose radioactive decay via cobalt 56 to (stable) iron 56 provides the intense luminosity of the event. It is uncertain whether part of the core collapses to a black hole or whether all the material in the star is blasted out during the eruption.

This fate is reserved for very massive stars whose cores can reach high temperature at moderate density ... stars of only a few solar masses develop degenerate cores which are too dense for pair production to be a significant factor. Eta Carinae is (at present) massive enough for a pair production supernova to be possible, but it is losing mass rapidly and may escape this fate, ending its life in a "common or garden" type II SN sometime within the next few hundred thousand years.

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