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Scientists Have Reproduced A Supernova Explosion In The Laboratory

Scientists Have Reproduced A Supernova Explosion In The Laboratory

By creating an extremely strong magnetic field in the laboratory, scientists have shown that shock waves in it stretch in one direction. This experiment explains the non-spherical shape of the supernova remnants. The results are available in the Astrophysical Journal.

When a star's life ends in a supernova explosion, shock waves from it travel thousands of light-years in the environment. If the energy is evenly dispersed in all directions, the supernova remnants should be spherically symmetrical, according to all models. However, observations show that most of them are axisymmetric or barrel-shaped, that is, elongated along a single axis, rather than spherical.

Scientists have put forward various hypotheses to explain these observations, but so far none of them has been reliably proven.

Astrophysicists from the Polytechnic School of Paris, led by Paul Mabey, together with British colleagues from the University of Oxford, the Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) in Germany and the French Commission on alternative energy and atomic energy (CEA) decided to test one of the hypotheses.

It assumes that shock waves from stellar explosions in a strong magnetic field take a predominant direction, since the physical and chemical properties of the interstellar medium change under the influence of magnetohydrodynamic shocks.

Researchers using high-power pulsed lasers practically reproduced this astrophysical phenomenon on a reduced scale in the laboratory of intensive lasers (LULI) of the Polytechnic School of Paris. As a prototype, scientists took the object G296. 5 + 10.0, which is easy to observe with telescopes from the Earth's surface.

The Helmholtz coil, which creates a uniform magnetic field about two hundred thousand times stronger than the Earth's — up to 10 Tesla — was designed and built by scientists from the Dresden strong magnetic field laboratory and the Institute of radiation physics at HZDR. They also developed a high-voltage pulse generator, which was then placed in LULI. The authors note that such conditions are found only in the vastness of the Universe and have never been reproduced in the laboratory before.

Astrophysicists have discovered that in an extremely strong magnetic field, the laser-generated blast wave becomes elongated and expands in one direction. In this case, the primary axis of the wave coincides with the direction of a uniform magnetic field.

The results of the experiment confirm the hypothesis that the axisymmetric shape of supernova remnants is associated with the action of the magnetic field.

Scientists plan to continue observing supernova remnants, as well as laboratory research at LULI to determine the strength and direction of magnetic fields in the Universe.