Revealing the Identity of Type Ia Supernovae
with Ken Shen
Saturday September 19, 2015 at 11:00 AM
100 Genetics & Plant Biology, UC Berkeley
Type Ia supernovae are famous for the role they play in determining the accelerating expansion of the Universe, which led to the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. In addition, they spread their nuclear burning ashes throughout galaxies, over time producing a large fraction of the heavy elements in the Universe. However, while we are fairly confident that Type Ia supernovae are the thermonuclear explosions of white dwarfs in binary stellar systems, the debate rages as to the precise nature of their companions and how the explosions are ignited. In this talk, I will review our basic understanding of Type Ia supernovae and show how recent advances are giving us hope that we will soon uncover the fundamental nature of these cosmic beacons.
Ken Shen is an assistant staff researcher in UC Berkeley’s Department of Astronomy. He works on the physics of white dwarfs in binary stellar systems and how they are affected by thermonuclear processes. His research ranges from the initiation of detonations at millimeter lengthscales to observable properties of supernovae in distant galaxies. He received his PhD from UC Santa Barbara in 2010 and has been at Berkeley ever since.
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