Washington: University of Toronto and Rutgers University physicists have mimicked the explosion of a supernova in miniature.
A supernova is an exploding star. In a certain type of supernova, the detonation starts with a flame ball buried deep inside a white dwarf. The flame ball is much lighter than its surroundings, so it rises rapidly making a plume topped with an accelerating smoke ring.
"We created a smaller version of this process by triggering a special chemical reaction in a closed container that generates similar plumes and vortex rings," said Stephen Morris, a University of Toronto physics professor.
Autocatalytic chemical reactions release heat and change the composition of a solution, which can create buoyancy forces that can stir the liquid, leading to more reaction and a runaway explosive process.
"A supernova is a dramatic example of this kind of self-sustaining explosion in which gravity and buoyancy forces are important effects. We wanted to see what the liquid motion would look like in such a self-stirred chemical reaction," said Michael Rogers, who led the experiment.
"It is extremely difficult to observe the inside of a real exploding star light years away so this experiment is an important window into the complex fluid motions that accompany such an event," explained Morris.
The research will appear in Physics Review.
First Published: Saturday, January 01, 2011, 17:50