Scientists create miniature supernova shockwaves in lab: simulated particle acceleration

BEIJING, June 16 (Xinhua) — In a new study, researchers have created tiny supernova shockwaves in a laboratory in the hope of solving a long-standing mystery of the universe that has troubled scientists. When a star dies and erupts as a supernova, it creates powerful shock waves in the surrounding plasma, spewing cosmic rays or high-energy particles into the universe. Shockwaves, like particle accelerators, can inject high-energy particles at a rate close to the speed of light. However, scientists don’t fully understand how shockwaves accelerate these particles.

Scientists create miniature supernova shockwaves in lab: simulated particle acceleration

This computer-simulated image shows the turbulent structure of the magnetic field in two shock waves that are far away from each other

Frederico Fiuza, a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory who led the new study, said: “These (supernovae) are fascinating systems, but they are so far away that they are difficult to study. “

So, in order to better study these cosmic shock waves, scientists began to try to reproduce them on Earth. Researchers have created a miniature version of the supernova wreckage. “We’re not going to create supernova debris in the lab, but we can learn more about the physics of astrophysical shockwaves and validate data models,” Fiuza said in a statement.

Scientists create miniature supernova shockwaves in lab: simulated particle acceleration

  Images of the remains of the Diago supernova, taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, vividly reveal the dynamics that produced the eruption of this deep-space celestial body. This image was posted on July 22, 2014

Fiuza and his colleagues are working to create a rapidly diffuse shock wave that simulates the shock waves that erupt after a supernova. They worked on the National Ignition At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where they fired powerful lasers at carbon sheets, creating two flow of plasma aimed at each other. When two plasma streams collide, they produce a shock wave “under conditions similar to supernova remnants,” according to the introduction. The researchers used optical and X-ray techniques to observe the experiment.

By analyzing tiny supernova shockwaves created in the lab, the researchers confirmed that they can accelerate electrons to near the speed of light. However, how these electrons reached such a telling is still a mystery, prompting scientists to turn to computer modeling. “Even in experiments, we can’t see the details of how particles get their energy, let alone in astrophysical observations, and that’s where simulations really work,” said Anna Grassi, a member of the study group. “

Now, although the mystery of the universe of the shock-accelerated particles remains unsolved, the computer model that Gracie created reveals a possible answer. Based on these models, Grach suggests that the turbulent electromagnetic field in the shock wave seems to accelerate electrons to the observed extremely high speed.

The researchers will continue to study accelerated x-rays from electrons and refine computer simulations. In addition to the electrons studied in this work, other future studies will involve positively charged protons that are also ejected from the shock waves. The detailed results of the study were published June 8 in the journal Nature Physics. (Any day)