Study Reveals Death Of Ancient Stars Led To Universe

At first glance, it looks uncannily like an image of the human brain, but in fact, this is the death of one of the first stars in our Universe.

Researchers say the death throes of these early stars were unique as they exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no black hole behind, but instead spewing out chemical elements into space that eventually formed our Universe.

Certain primordial stars those between 55,000 and 56,000 times the mass of our Sun, or solar masses may have died unusually, the team concluded.

Astrophysicists at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the University of Minnesota came to this conclusion after running a number of supercomputer simulations at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and Minnesota Supercomputing Institute at the University of Minnesota.

They relied extensively on CASTRO, a compressible astrophysics code developed at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab's) Computational Research Division (CRD).

Their findings were recently published in Astrophysical Journal (ApJ).

First-generation stars are especially interesting because they produced the first heavy elements, or chemical elements other than hydrogen and helium.

In death, they sent their chemical creations into outer space, paving the way for subsequent generations of stars, solar systems and galaxies.

With a greater understanding of how these first stars died, scientists hope to glean some insights about how the Universe, as we know it today, came to be.

"We found that there is a narrow window where supermassive stars could explode completely instead of becoming a supermassive black hole, no one has ever found this mechanism before," says Ke-Jung Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSC and lead author of the ApJ paper.

"Without NERSC resources, it would have taken us a lot longer to reach this result."

"From a user perspective, the facility is run very efficiently and it is an extremely convenient place to do science."

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