SCIENTISTS have created their own supernova explosions – in the comfort of their laboratory.
Supernovas are stars hit by a sudden reignition of nuclear fusion or those which suffer gravitational collapse at their cores. The resulting force triggers a shockwave that is one of the most energetic events in the universe.
Researchers have been studying the phenomenon at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, at Chilton, near Didcot.
Using beams billions of times more powerful than laser pointers, they have created small-scale supernova explosions in the laboratory to study them.
Three laser beams were focused onto a carbon rod about as thick as a strand of hair, in a low-density gas-filled chamber.
The resultant heat – several million degrees C, caused the rod to explode and the blast to expand – replicating the gas surrounding a supernova.
Prof Gianluca Gregori, of Oxford University’s department of physics, said: “It may sound surprising that a table-top laboratory experiment that fits inside an average room can be used to study astrophysical objects that are light years across.”
The research investigates the relationship between turbulence and magnetic fields created at the birth of the universe.
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