Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
(1910-1995)

 

Indian-born US astrophysicist who made pioneering studies of the structure and evolution of stars. The Chandrasekhar limit is the maximum mass of a white dwarf before it turns into a neutron star. Nobel Prize for Physics 1983.
Chandrasekhar has also investigated the transfer of energy in stellar atmospheres by radiation and convection, and the polarization of light emitted from particular stars.
Chandrasekhar was born in Lahore (now in Pakistan) and studied in Madras, India, and at Cambridge, UK, before joining the staff of the University of Chicago, Illinois, 1936. He became a professor there 1952.
The evolution of white dwarfs is explained in his Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure 1939. He calculated that stellar masses below 1.44 times that of the Sun would form stable white dwarfs, but those above this limit would not evolve into white dwarfs; the limit is now believed to be about 1.2 solar masses. Stars with masses above the Chandrasekhar limit are likely to explode into supernovae; the mass remaining after the explosion may form a white dwarf if the conditions are suitable, but is more likely to form a neutron star.


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