Physicists create tiny supernova at Canadian university
Physicists from the University of Toronto and Rutgers University may be clinking champagne after successfully one-upping the lava lamp and creating a “supernova in a jar” last week.
The emulation of an exploding white dwarf star – carried out through an iodate arsenous acid reaction – may aid in understanding the size and evolution of the universe, wrote U of T physics professor Stephen Morris in a press release.
In these Ia-type supernovas, the detonation starts with a flame ball buried deep inside a white dwarf star. The flame ball is much lighter than its surroundings, so it rises rapidly making a plume topped with an accelerating smoke ring. This “autocatalytic chemical reaction” releases heat and changes the composition of a solution, which can create buoyancy forces that can stir the liquid, leading to more reaction and a runaway explosive process.
“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,” Morris continues. “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.”
The discovery marks an exciting breakthrough for some, while many other university students reading this article will undoubtedly let their minds single out such words and phrases as “Champagne Supernova,” “acid reaction” and “smoke ring” while giggling at the thought of a “flame ball buried deep inside a white dwarf.”