New Brunswick, N.J. (April 21, 2021) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick astrophysicist John P. (Jack) Hughes is available for interviews on a supernova (exploding star) discovery published today in the journal Nature. The discovery, made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, features Cassiopeia A, a well-studied supernova remnant and one of the brightest radio and X-ray sources in the sky.

Scientists revealed subtle but highly significant evidence of titanium and chromium from the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. This evidence strongly supports the neutrino-driven heating mechanism as what triggers the supernova explosion of large stars undergoing the collapse of their cores. Neutrinos are the most weakly interacting (known) subatomic particles, but they’re produced in such vast abundances in these explosions that they are the key ingredient in the process. The study found that titanium and chromium were produced in Cassiopeia A's explosion at temperatures of 6 billion to 10 billion degrees (the sun’s surface is only 6,000 degrees) and at matter densities 7 million times the density of water.

“This is a major step forward in understanding how the core of a massive star collapses at the end of its life and the rest of the star rebounds as a supernova – a major unsolved problem in astrophysics,” said senior author Hughes, who focuses on X-ray astronomy and is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences. “It gives us a guidebook for planning future observations with new X-ray astronomy missions under development.”

A massive star explodes as a core collapse supernova on average every 50 years in a galaxy like ours, the Milky Way, according to estimates. Cassiopeia A is the youngest such supernova scientists have discovered in the Milky Way and was one of the first objects observed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory after its 1999 launch.

Here’s a link to the study:


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