Phenomena

Flames in Freefall

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Gravity is such an omnipresent force in our lives that we frequently forget how strongly it affects our daily experiences and how differently nature behaves without it. A wonderful example of this is the simple flame of a candle. On Earth, a candle flame is tear-drop-shaped and elongated, burning hotter near the bottom and glowing yellow from soot at the top. But, as Dianna demonstrates with her free-fall experiment, this shape is due entirely to the effects of gravity. Buoyant forces make the hot air near the candle rise, pulling in cooler air and fresh oxygen at the base while stretching out the flame. In microgravity – or free-fall – flames are instead spherical, their shape driven by molecular and chemical diffusion. Check out the full video to see more effects of acceleration on flames. (Video credit: Physics Girl)

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