Supernova 1987A progress report

Dewey B. Larson
755 N.E. Royal Court
Portland, Oregon 97232

April 2, 1987

Dear Jan :

Enclosed is a “progress report” on the new supernova, which may be of interest to you. I am enclosing an extra copy, and I would appreciate your passing it on to William Corliss. I can’t very well send it direct, because I have never had any personal dealings with him.

I have found that the computer printout that I sent to you needs another kind of a proofreading. I don’t see the little marks that the computer makes well enough to catch mistakes in an ordinary proof reading, and I now find that there are a considerable number of cases, at least in the first few chapters, where I have commas instead of periods, or vice versa, or have these punctuation marks at the superscript level. I am checking the commas and periods with a magnifying glass to take care of this.

We are in the banana belt this spring. It was 81 here yesterday.

Dewey B. Larson
755 N.E. Royal Court
Portland, Oregon 97232

April 2, 1987


I have received a number of inquiries as to how well the observations of the supernova that has been observed in the Large Magellanic Cloud agree with the theoretical conclusions about supernovae in general that are expressed in The Universe of Motion. I cannot give a definite answer to this question as yet, since the observational data thus far reported are limited, and to some extent conflicting. However, I can give what may be considered a progress report, based on the situation as it stands in the light of the information that has appeared thus far in the publications accessible to the general public.

The Theories

The astronomers’ theory of supernovae assumes that the generation of energy in the stars takes place by conversion of hydrogen to successively heavier elements, eventually resulting in an exhaustion of the hydrogen supply, and a consequent collapse of the stellar structure. The smaller stars are assumed to collapse quietly into white dwarfs, but the collapse of the larger stars (those more than about 8 times the mass of the sun) is assumed to be of such a catastrophic nature that it leads to an explosion.

Our theory assert that the supernova explosion occurs when a star reaches one of two limits, a mass limit (Type I) or a limit related to age (Type II).

Size of Exploding Star.

The first reports of the LMC supernova indicated that the star which exploded had been identified, and was a large one. Later observations showed that this star was still intact, and no other large star at this location could be found on the pre-explosion photographs.

This probably means that the explosion occurred in a small star, contradicting accepted theory. Our findings are that any star can become a supernova. at the appropriate stage of its development.

Intensity of Explosion

The maximum observed brightness is reported to be "faint for a supernova", and the supernova is developing much faster than expected.

These observations agree with the conclusion that the exploding star was a small one.

Supernova Type

It is now generally conceded that the explosion is Type II.

Our finding is that Type II is the only kind of an explosion that a small star can undergo.

Chemical Composition of Products

According to the astronomers' theory of the supernova, the amount of hydrogen in the explosion products should be very small.

On the basis of our theory, the constituents of the star should be predominantly hydrogen.

So far, all that has been observed is "an envelope of luminous hydrogen".


There is much excitement about the reported observation of bursts of neutrinos that apparently originate from the supernova. But the production of some neutrinos in high energy processes is a feature of all present-day theories, while no theory is firmly enough established quantitatively to yield unequivocal conclusions. The neutrino observations therefore cannot be expected to contribute significantly to a resolution of the question as to the validity of conflicting supernova theories.

Astronomers’ Reaction

As matters now stand, the astronomers are conceding that the supernova is not behaving according to their theoretical expectations. A report in the March 13 issue of “Science News” contains the following statements:

One thing that seemed clear at the March 6 meeting is that the theorists are having a hard time assimilating the information from this, the nearest supernova since 1604.

It's hard to make something dim into a type II.

The first radio observations caused more theoretical consternation.

In contrast to these comments on the theoretical problems that the astronomers are facing, we can say that all observations thus far are entirely consistent with the supernova theory set forth in The Universe of Motion.

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