How can scientists use violent stellar explosions occurring outside the Milky Way Galaxy to determine the characteristics of the universe? Aren’t the many variations in these explosions so extreme as to make them useless for studying? After all, we can’t take these objects into the lab (or make them) in order to test the details of how they work.
While the case for using Type Ia supernovae to measure cosmic expansion may seem hopeless, astrophysicists have developed a suite of tools to address the above problems. For example, the conditions specific to each supernova cause them to vary in brightness. As described in a previous TNRTB, astronomers can develop models that match observations and allow them to correct for those variations.
Another approach is to build these supernovae in the lab—or at least in a powerful computer program. A team of American scientists recently demonstrated the first fully three-dimensional computer simulation of the stages preceding the supernova explosion. Type Ia supernovae occur under almost (but not quite) identical conditions. Astronomers can use these detailed computer simulations to test how various conditions impact a supernova’s brightness.
The results of this simulation confirm previous outcomes of earlier, less sophisticated attempts. Additionally, the new work demonstrates that the behavior inside the white dwarf just before detonation is more complex than expected.
While much work remains, this research represents a significant step in confirming the “standard candle” signature of Type Ia supernovae that make them useful probes of cosmic expansion. Continued improvements in these computer simulations will allow astronomers to better understand how different environments affect the brightness of Type Ia supernovae. This understanding will lead to better measurements of the cosmic expansion, and, RTB predicts, more evidence revealing God’s design of this universe.