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Lasers help recreate supernova explosions in lab

Lasers help recreate supernova explosions in lab

Re­search­ers are using la­sers to rec­re­ate at a small scale what hap­pens when stars explode.

The su­per­no­va blasts, trig­gered in var­i­ous ways with­in dy­ing stars, launch a shock wave that sweeps through vast reaches of space from the burst­ing star. But not all such ex­plo­sions are alike. Some, such as Cas­si­o­pe­ia A which lies 11,000 light years from the Earth (a light-year is the dis­tance light trav­els in a year), show puz­zling, ir­reg­u­lar shapes made of knots and twists.

The new work is be­ing car­ried out at the Vul­can la­ser facil­ity in the U.K., op­er­ated by the Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Facil­i­ties Coun­cil, a publicly-funded U.K. re­search or­gan­iz­a­tion.

A research team led by Uni­vers­ity of Ox­ford scientists used the facil­ity to in­ves­t­i­gate what might cause these pe­cu­liar shapes. The team fo­cused three la­ser beams on­to a car­bon rod, not much thicker than a hair, in a cham­ber filled with a thin gas. The enor­mous amount of heat gen­er­at­ed by the la­ser – more than a few mil­lion de­grees Cel­si­us – made the rod ex­plode, cre­at­ing a blast that ex­pand­ed through the gas.

It's “a great demon­stra­t­ion of the use of high pow­er la­sers for stu­dy­ing such as­t­ro­phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­na,” said Rob Clarke, who leads the Ex­pe­ri­men­tal Sci­ence group at the coun­cil's Cen­tral La­ser Facil­ity. “Our la­ser, en­gi­neer­ing and sci­en­tif­ic staff are used to de­sign­ing highly com­plex ex­pe­ri­ments which en­a­ble us to per­form ex­pe­ri­ments at these ex­treme con­di­tions.”

In the ex­pe­ri­ments the dense gas clumps or gas clouds that sur­round an ex­plod­ing star were sim­u­lat­ed by in­tro­duc­ing a plas­tic grid to dis­turb and in­tro­duce tur­bu­lence in­to the ex­pand­ing blast wave, he added. “The ex­pe­ri­ment demon­strated that as the blast of the ex­plo­sion passes through the grid it be­comes ir­reg­u­lar and tur­bu­lent, just like the im­ages from Cas­si­o­pe­ia,” said Ox­ford's Gi­an­luca Gre­gori, who led the stu­dy, pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture Phys­ics June 1.



Source : http://www.world-science.net/othernews/140602_supernova.htm

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