Inside a Supernova

During a supernova, shock waves moving outward push denser material into less dense plasma and gas. This causes what is known as a RichtmyerMeshkov instability, where the interface between the two fluids first becomes wavy and then develops finger-like intrusions. Those too break down, as seen in the simulation above, causing large-scale mixing between the different fluids.

Here on Earth this instability shows up in the process of inertial confinement fusion. In that case, the outer shell material is denser than the fuel core and the instability is triggered during the implosion process. As the fusion material is suddenly compressed, waviness and mixing occurs along the interface between the shell and the fuel. That’s undesirable because it reduces the efficiency of the fusion reaction.  (Image credit: E. Evangelista et al.)

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