In the three years since he joined the Weizmann Institute, there have been four press releases on Dr. Avishay Gal-Yam’s work as well a number of stories in our magazines. This may be somewhat unusual, but there is no denying the interest in his subject matter: supernovae.
Of the last two papers featured in the media, the first has all the pyrotechnical drama: a star the size of 200 suns, exotic electron-positron pairs sucking out its energy until it collapses on its own core and goes up in a mega thermonuclear explosion.
The second paper also describes a new type of supernova – one that’s relatively dim. But similar supernovae could be much more common in the Universe than the first type, and they might even be the source of all the calcium on Earth.
These discoveries are due, in part, to recent improvements in the techniques for identifying and tracking stellar explosions. Could there be other kinds of supernova out there waiting to be discovered?