Liquid Mushrooms

The Rayleigh-Taylor instability can form at the interface between two liquids of different density under the influence of gravity, but a similar instability can occur in the absence of gravity. The image sequence above shows the Richtmyer-Meshkov instability, which occurs between two liquids of differing densities (regardless of their orientation) when impulsively accelerated. In this case, the experiment was conducted in a drop tower to simulate microgravity with the apparatus dropped on a spring to provide the impulse. As the instability grows, asymmetries appear.  Nonlinear dynamics will amplify these distortions, eventually leading to turbulent breakdown. (Photo credit: C. Niederhaus/NASA Glenn, J. Jacobs/University of Arizona)

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