Fritz Zwicky and Supernovae

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  • Topic: Neutron star, Supernova, Star
  • Pages : 1 (255 words )
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  • Published : November 26, 2007
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Fritz Zwicky was born in Bulgaria and earned his PhD in physics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. After completing his studies, he spent most of his life in the United States researching at California Institute of Technology. Zwicky introduced and coined the term supernova and clearly distinguished it from the more common nova. He and his colleague Walter Baade suggested that supernovae were exploding stars that collapsed to form neutron stars. Supernovae also produced cosmic rays as they observed.

With this initial notion, the two astronomers teamed up to advance the research on supernovae. From history, they knew that there were a few accounts of new stars that appeared bright to the naked eye for several months before fading from view. They believed such events were supernova explosions. From their research and observations, they advanced three concepts at a conference in 1933. They suggested that "massive stars end their lives in stupendous explosions which blow them apart, such explosions produce cosmic rays, and they leave behind a collapsed star made of densely-packed neutrons".

With these observations, they believed that supernovas should also be observable in other galaxies. As a result, he persuaded people to construct telescopes for his viewing pleasure. In the first three years alone, Zwicky discovered 12 supernovas. For the next 50 years or so, Zwicky was dedicated to support the hypothesis he constructed and kept hunting for supernovae. In the end, he was able to find 122 supernovae, which is still a record that still stands today.
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