Museum PhD Student's Animated Thesis on the Lives (and Deaths) of Stars

Research posts

Last summer, the popular website PhD Comics invited graduate students from around the world to record and submit two-minute descriptions of their theses. Of more than 200 entries submitted, 12 were chosen to be animated and published on PhD Comics TV

One of the winners was Or Graur, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University and the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the Museum, where he works with Curator Michael Shara in the Astrophysics Department.

His two-minute thesis video is called The Secret Lives (and Deaths) of Stars.

Some stars end their lives in energetic explosions that briefly outshine the combined light of all the other stars in their galaxy. Different types of stars explode as different types of supernovae, and after several decades of study, astronomers are now starting to link between the different types of stars and their explosions. 

Or's thesis concerns the origins of one type of star explosion, called a thermonuclear, or "Type Ia," supernova. These supernovae became famous at the turn of the 21st century, when they were used as "standard candles" to measure distances to other galaxies, a measurement that led to the discovery that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating, perhaps due to a mysterious new energy dubbed "Dark Energy."

The animation was produced by animator Jorge Cham and series-producer Meg Rosenburg for PhD Comics; you can listen to other entries in the PhD Comics Two-minute Thesis competition here.

Listen to a podcast from the Museum about supernovae.