"Supernova in a Jar" Offers Peek Inside Star Death
A "gentle" chemical reaction in the lab is giving scientists a peek inside powerful star explosions called Type Ia supernovae.
Called the iodate-arsenous acid (IAA) system, the experiment involved injecting a small shot of acid into glycerol to trigger a self-sustaining reaction.
The result was a rising "vortex ring," a structure that superficially resembles a smoke ring or the mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb.
According to computer simulations, vortex rings are also created inside Type Ia supernovae, which can occur when stellar corpses, known as white dwarfs, siphon gas from healthy neighboring stars.
When a white dwarf reaches a critical mass threshold—the equivalent of the shot of acid in the lab experiment—the star explodes in one of the most energetic events known to occur in the universe. (Related: "New Type of