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Physicists create first man-made supernova

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Physicists have developed and tested a method of creating a minute supernova in the laboratory that has all the characteristics presently known of galactic sized supernovae. Researchers from the University of Oxford in Britain and the University of Chicago made a supernova using lasers for the first time. The research was reported in the June 1, 2014, edition of the journal Nature Physics.

Prior to any laboratory work, part of the research team validated the theoretical potential for creating a supernova using lasers that had the same temperature and atmospheric surroundings as natural supernovae. The small supernova was created by focusing three laser beams onto a carbon rod. The rod was 10 micrometers in thickness. The heat generated by the lasers caused the rod to explode. The movement of the explosion through a controlled atmosphere was measured.

Astrophysicists have theorized that the unique shape of the gas cloud produced by the explosion of a star is the result of the additive factors of magnetic fields and the interaction of the exploded particles with gas clouds around an exploding star. The experimental design simulated gas clouds with a plastic grid. Magnetic fields were generated with external magnets.

The shape of the resulting explosion from the experiment was basically the same as observed in natural supernovae. The generation of x-rays and gamma rays due to the exploded particles encountering gas molecules and the plastic grid was the same as that seen in nature. The entire apparatus was the size of a kitchen table. Uniformity of shape and size of the debris cloud produced by a supernova is a function of the strength of the magnetic fields the shock-wave from the explosion encounters.

The experiment could explain where magnetic fields came from. Theoretically no magnetic fields existed before the Big Bang. The researchers plan to expand this work that makes the study of supernovae much easier and less expensive than using telescopes and waiting to find a new star explosion.