The last minutes of oxygen shell burning in a massive star

Bernhard Mueller, Maxime Viallet, Alexander Heger, Hans-Thomas Janka

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We present the first 4π-three-dimensional (3D) simulation of the last minutes of oxygen shell burning in an 18 M o supernova progenitor up to the onset of core collapse. A moving inner boundary is used to accurately model the contraction of the silicon and iron core according to a one-dimensional stellar evolution model with a self-consistent treatment of core deleptonization and nuclear quasi-equilibrium. The simulation covers the full solid angle to allow the emergence of large-scale convective modes. Due to core contraction and the concomitant acceleration of nuclear burning, the convective Mach number increases to ∼0.1 at collapse, and an ℓ = 2 mode emerges shortly before the end of the simulation. Aside from a growth of the oxygen shell from 0.51 M o to 0.56 M o due to entrainment from the carbon shell, the convective flow is reasonably well described by mixing-length theory, and the dominant scales are compatible with estimates from linear stability analysis. We deduce that artificial changes in the physics, such as accelerated core contraction, can have precarious consequences for the state of convection at collapse. We argue that scaling laws for the convective velocities and eddy sizes furnish good estimates for the state of shell convection at collapse and develop a simple analytic theory for the impact of convective seed perturbations on shock revival in the ensuing supernova. We predict a reduction of the critical luminosity for explosion by 12%-24% due to seed asphericities for our 3D progenitor model relative to the case without large seed perturbations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124
Number of pages22
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2016


  • convection
  • stars: massive
  • supernovae: general
  • turbulence
  • hydrodynamics

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