Supernova fallback and the emergence of a black hole

Luca Zampiri, Monica Colpi, Stuart L. Shapiro, Ira Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present the first fully relativistic investigation of matter fallback in a supernova. We investigate spherically symmetric supernova fallback using a relativistic radiation hydrodynamics Lagrangian code that handles radiation transport in all regimes. Our goal is to answer the fundamental questions: did SN 1987A produce a black hole and, if so, when will the hole become detectable? We compute the light curve, assuming that a black hole has been formed during the explosion, and compare it with the observations. Our preliminary calculations lack radioactive energy input and adopt a very simple chemical composition (pure hydrogen). As a result, our computed models cannot fit the observed data of SN 1987A in detail. Nevertheless, we can show that, during the first hours, the accretion flow is selfregulated and the accretion luminosity stays very close to the Eddington limit. The light curve is completely dominated, during the first few weeks, by the emission of the stellar envelope thermal energy and resembles that obtained in "standard" supernova theory. Only long after hydrogen recombination takes place is there even a chance to actually detect radiation from the accreting black hole above the emission of the expanding envelope. The presence of a black hole is thus not inconsistent with observations to date. Because of the exponential decay of the 44Ti radioactive heating rate, the date of the emergence of the black hole is not very sensitive to the actual parameters of the models and turns out to be about 1000 yr. The bulk of the emission then is expected to be in the visible band but will be unobservable with present instrumentation. We discuss the implications of our results in connection with the possible emergence of black holes in other supernovae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)876-896
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
StatePublished - 1998


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Radiative transfer
  • Relativity
  • Supernovae: general
  • Supernovae: individual (SN 1987A)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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