Supernova 1987A

I have received a number of inquiries as to how well the observations of the supernova that has been observed in the Large Magellanic Cloud agree with the theoretical conclusions about supernovae in general that are expressed in The Universe of Motion. I cannot give a definite answer to this question as yet, since the observational data thus far reported are limited, and to some extent conflicting. However, I can give what may be considered a progress report, based on the situation as it stands in the light of the information that has appeared thus far in the publications accessible to the general public.

The Theories

The astronomers’ theory of supernovae assumes that the generation of energy in the stars takes place by conversion of hydrogen to successively heavier elements, eventually resulting in an exhaustion of the hydrogen supply, and a consequent collapse of the stellar structure. The smaller stars are assumed to collapse quietly into white dwarfs, but the collapse of the larger stars (those more than about 8 times the mass of the sun) is assumed to be of such a catastrophic nature that it leads to an explosion. none. Our theory assert that the supernova explosion occurs when a star reaches one of two limits, a mass limit (Type I) or a limit related to age (Type II).

Size of Exploding Star

The first reports of the LMC supernova indicated that the star which exploded had been identified, and was a large one. Later observations showed that this star was still intact, and no other large star at this location could be found on the pre-explosion photographs. This probably means that the explosion occurred in a small star, contradicting accepted theory. Our findings are that any star can become a supernova. at the appropriate stage of its development.

Intensity of Explosion

The maximum observed brightness is reported to be “faint for a supernova”, and the supernova is developing much faster than expected. These observations agree with the conclusion that the exploding star was a small one.

Supernova Type

It is now generally conceded that the explosion is Type II. Our finding is that Type II is the only kind of an explosion that a small star can undergo.

Chemical Composition of Products

Hydrogen

According to the astronomers’ theory of the supernova, the amount of hydrogen in the explosion products should be very small. On the basis of our theory, the constituents of the star should be predominantly hydrogen. So far, all that has been observed is “an envelope of luminous hydrogen”.

Neutrinos

There is much excitement about the reported observation of bursts of neutrinos that apparently originate from the supernova. But the production of some neutrinos in high energy processes is a feature of all present-day theories, while no theory is firmly enough established quantitatively to yield unequivocal conclusions. The neutrino observations therefore cannot be expected to contribute significantly to a resolution of the question as to the validity of conflicting supernova theories. Our theoretical development has not yet been extended to the neutrino production in high energy processes.

Astronomers’ Reaction

As matters now stand, the astronomers are conceding that the supernova is not behaving according to their theoretical expectations. A report in the March 13 issue of “Science News” contains the following statements: “One thing that seemed clear at the March 6 meeting is that the theorists are having a hard time assimilating the information from this, the nearest supernova since 1604. It’s hard to make something dim into a type II. (Comment on indications that the original star was dim, and that the supernova is type II.)” The first radio observations caused more theoretical consternation. In contrast to these comments on the theoretical problems that the astronomers are facing, we can say that all observations thus far are entirely consistent with the supernova theory set forth in The Universe of Motion.

D. B. Larson