RSAA Colloquia / Seminars / Feast-of-Facts: Thursday, 12 March 2015, 11:00-12:00; Duffield Lecture Theatre

Ashley Ruiter

"What are the elusive Type Ia supernova progenitors? Merging white dwarfs check (almost) all the boxes"

Interacting binary stars that produce ’fast and faint’ transients, thermonuclear and stripped core-collapse supernovae, or merging compact objects play a crucial role in many areas of astrophysics. Our knowledge of their progenitors, however, remains speculative and rudimentary in most cases. To tackle the grand task of uncovering the origin of these objects, one must understand how close binary stars evolve and interact. I will demonstrate how such calculations have contributed to uncovering a formation channel of Type Ia supernovae that originates from merging white dwarf stars. Similar calculations will be necessary in furthering our understanding of the wide variety of transient objects that we expect to be discovered in the next decade. With upcoming surveys such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), an enormous number of newly-discovered sources will need theoretical explanation. Further - with the future launch of the first space-based gravitational wave observatory (eLISA), a new window on astronomy will finally be opened. Our ability to interpret this wealth of data will be constrained by our currently limited understanding of binary star evolution, making this a key research area of astronomy and astrophysics in the decades to come.