Terascale Input Physics: The Role of Nuclear Electron Capture in Core Collapse Supernovae

William Raphael Hix, ORNL

Core Collapse supernovae are among the most energetic explosions in the Universe and the predominant source of chemical elements heavier than carbon. Core collapse supernovae drive matter to extremes of density and temperature that cannot be produced on Earth and serve as laboratories for fundamental physics. Understanding these events requires the partnership of nuclear and particle physicists with astrophysicists and computational scientists. A case in point is the study of the role that captures of electrons and neutrinos on heavy atomic nuclei play during core collapse. In addition to the astrophysical modeling, the required understanding of the structure of the atomic nucleus is itself a terascale application. We will discuss recent work which shows that a realistic treatment of electron capture on these nuclei causes significant changes in the hydrodynamics of core collapse and bounce, which set the stage for the subsequent evolution of the supernova.