SLAC Public Lecture Series
Supernovas: Gravity-powered Neutrino Bombs
Imagine taking a ball of hot plasma more massive than the sun and suddenly compressing it to a super-dense object the size of a city. This sounds like science fiction, yet it is exactly what happens in the centers of massive stars, causing them to explode so violently that they briefly release as much light as an entire galaxy. These supernova explosions have shaped the universe as we know it and created many of the chemical elements around us. It turns out that tiny, elusive elementary particles called neutrinos play a crucial role in these explosions. Only two dozen supernova neutrinos have ever been detected, but thousand more are expected to be seen in giant underground detectors of the future. This lecture describes the part neutrinos play in one of the universe’s most dramatic events, and outline what scientists expect to learn by capturing bursts of neutrinos from the next galactic supernova.