Dr. Charles Wang, an astrophysicist at the University of Aberdeen, proposes a new theory on why stars explode. Other than providing the potential key to one of the most mysterious events in the Universe, the theory could also shed more light on the link between supernova events and climate change.
According to a presentation Wang made on September 4 at the British Science Festival, a particle rather similar to the Higgs boson could be responsible for all these phenomena. The Higgs is the fifth force carrier in the Standard Model, and its function is largely to enable energy to acquire mass.
Representatives from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have already manifested their interest in this theory, and said that their largest installation, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), will be used to investigate it in detail, starting this September.
During the presentation, Wang underlined that a connection indeed exists between global warming and stellar explosions. Supernovae are believed to occur when massive stars reach the end of their burning cycle, become unstable, and then shed their atmospheres in a huge blast.
Apparently, this process can somehow influence the temperatures of Earth's atmosphere, he argues.
“When a star explodes a massive amount of cosmic rays enter the atmosphere affecting the weather in space by making it cloudier. More clouds in space leads to the Earth’s atmosphere being cooler. Global warming could therefore be connected to stars exploding in our skies less frequently,” Wang explained.
“We cannot control the explosion of stars, but if we can understand the process by which it happens we could potentially better predict when and where these explosions will take place and as a result make predictions on how the Earth’s climate could change in the decades to come,” the expert argued.
As far as current astronomical surveys can report, supernova blasts occur once per year, in all the known galaxies. They are extremely powerful events, second only to the Big Bang in terms of intensity.
There are two main types of supernova explosions – one that occurs when two stars collide and merge with each other, and the other when a single star collapses. The latter is only marginally understood.
Wang believes that a Higgs-like particle is responsible for the second type of blasts. “It is known that stars are like giant nuclear power plants, perpetually converting one form of energy – hydrogen atoms – into another – helium atoms,” he said.
“My theory is that a scalar particle – one of the most elementary types of particles in the universe and similar to the Higgs boson – is at work within these stars and responsible for the additional energy which causes the explosion this take place,” Wang concluded.