We are excited to welcome author Or Graur to the blog! Earlier this year, MIT Press published his book Supernova, which is a concise introduction to the history and physics of supernovae, or the brilliant explosions of stars. Graur is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Astrophysics at the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.
Please tell us a bit about your book. What drew you to the topic?
When I was an undergraduate student, I wrote a report on dark energy. It had only been discovered a few years before and was an exciting new mystery. When the time came to look for PhD projects, I wanted to work in this field, but there was no one working on it at Tel Aviv University. I knew that dark energy was discovered due to observations of supernovae, so I decided to approach the field that way. This led me to Prof. Dan Maoz, who had a long-term research program to try and figure out what types of stars explode as Type Ia supernovae, the type of supernova used to discover dark energy. Under his supervision, I completed three surveys, in which I discovered supernovae myself, then used them to measure the frequency at which Type Ia supernovae explode at different ages of the Universe. I still remember how excited I was when I compared the rates I had measured to theoretical models. For a split second, I had twitched the veil covering the Universe’s mechanism. I’ve been hooked ever since. I still study Type Ia supernovae, but now my focus has shifted to using the Hubble Space Telescope to study how the light from these events fades years after the explosion. This is another way to approach the same problem: figuring out what type of star explodes as this type of supernova, and how the explosion occurs.