Mimicking Supernovas

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The Hubble archives are full of incredible swirls of cosmic gas and dust, many of which were born in supernovas. Predicting the forms these massive explosions will generate is extremely difficult, thanks in large part to the complicated fluid dynamics generated by their blast waves. But new lab-scale experiments may help shed light on those underlying processes.

Researchers mimic supernovas in the lab by launching blast waves through an interface between a dense gas (shown in white) and a lighter one (which appears black). As the blast wave passes, it drives the dense fluid into the lighter one, triggering a series of instabilities. Notice how any initial perturbations in the interface quickly grow into mushroom-like spikes that rapidly become turbulent. This behavior is exactly what’s seen in supernovas (and in inertial confinement fusion)! (Video credit: Georgia Tech; research credit: B. Musci et al.; submitted by D. Ranjan)

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