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Topics in core-collapse supernova theory : the formation of black holes and the transport of neutrinos


O'Connor, Evan Patrick (2012) Topics in core-collapse supernova theory : the formation of black holes and the transport of neutrinos. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


Core-Collapse Supernovae are one of the most complex astrophysical systems in the universe. They deeply entwine aspects of physics and astrophysics that are rarely side by side in nature. To accurately model core-collapse supernovae one must self-consistently combine general relativity, nuclear physics, neutrino physics, and magneto-hydrodynamics in a symmetry-free computational environment. This is a challenging task, as each one of these aspects on its own is an area of great study. We take an open approach in an effort to encourage collaboration in the core-collapse supernovae community.

In this thesis, we develop a new open-source general-relativistic spherically-symmetric Eulerian hydrodynamics code for studying stellar collapse, protoneutron star formation, and evolution until black hole formation. GR1D includes support for finite temperature equations of state and an efficient and qualitatively accurate treatment of neutrino leakage. GR1D implements spherically-symmetric rotation, allowing for the study of slowly rotating stellar collapse. GR1D is available at

We use GR1D to perform an extensive study of black hole formation in failing core-collapse supernovae. Over 100 presupernova models from various sources are used in over 700 total simulations. We systematically explore the dependence of black hole formation on the input physics: initial zero-age main sequence (ZAMS) mass and metallicity, nuclear equation of state, rotation, and stellar mass loss rates. Assuming the core-collapse supernova mechanism fails and a black hole forms, we find that the outcome, for a given equation of state, can be estimated, to first order, by a single parameter, the compactness of the stellar core at bounce. By comparing the protoneutron star structure at the onset of gravitational instability with solutions of the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkof equations, we find that thermal pressure support in the outer protoneutron star core is responsible for raising the maximum protoneutron star mass by up to 25% above the cold neutron star value. By artificially increasing neutrino heating, we find the critical neutrino heating efficiency required for exploding a given progenitor structure and connect these findings with ZAMS conditions. This establishes, albeit approximately, for the first time based on actual collapse simulations, the mapping between ZAMS parameters and the outcome of core collapse.

We also use GR1D to study proposed progenitors of long-duration gamma-ray bursts. We find that many of the proposed progenitors have core structures similar to garden-variety core-collapse supernovae. These are not expected to form black holes, a key ingredient of the collapsar model of long-duration gamma-ray bursts. The small fraction of proposed progenitors that are compact enough to form black holes have fast rotating iron cores, making them prone to a magneto-rotational explosion and the formation of a protomagnetar rather than a black hole.

Finally, we present preliminary work on a fully general-relativistic neutrino transport code and neutrino-interaction library. Following along with the trends explored in our black hole formation study, we look at the dependence of the neutrino observables on the bounce compactness. We find clear relationships that will allow us to extract details of the core structure from the next galactic supernova. Following the open approach of GR1D, the neutrino transport code will be made open-source upon completion. The open-source neutrino-interaction library, NuLib, is already available at

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:core-collapse supernovae; supernovae; black holes; neutrinos; neutron stars; radiation transport; hydrodynamics; high-energy astrophysics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astrophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Ott, Christian D.
Thesis Committee:
  • Ott, Christian D. (chair)
  • Phinney, E. Sterl
  • Harrison, Fiona A.
  • Weinstein, Alan Jay
Defense Date:21 May 2012
Non-Caltech Author Email:evanoc (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science FoundationAST-0855535
National Science FoundationOCI-0905046
National Science FoundationPHY-0960291
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06012012-103948541
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DocumentUNSPECIFIED
http://www.nulib.orgRelated DocumentUNSPECIFIED
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7118
Deposited By: Evan O'Connor
Deposited On:01 Jun 2012 23:18
Last Modified:18 Aug 2017 20:58

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