Cosmic shock waves have long been shrouded in mystery, but scientists have now created mini versions of the fascinating phenomena here on Earth to understand how and why they blow particles into the universe.
Researchers created the miniature version of supernova shock waves using lasers in a laboratory to study particle acceleration.
Shock waves form when stars die and explode. After this, the waves of cosmic rays blow into the universe.
These are also known as highly energetic particles, which means that the shock waves act as ‘particle accelerators’.
Scientists are now trying to understand how this acceleration takes place.
“These are fascinating systems, but because they are so far away, it is difficult to study them,” said Frederico Fiuza, senior scientist at the Department of Energy SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, who led the new study.
The experts “brought the shock waves to Earth” – in a reduced version.
Fiuza added, “We’re not trying to make supernova remnants in the lab, but we can learn more about the physics of astrophysical shocks and validate models there.”
The aim of the study was to create a fast, diffuse shock wave that can mimic the shocks after a supernova and study its effects.
Scientists worked at the National Ignition Facility, a Department of Energy facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Here, researchers used powerful lasers and fired them on carbon plates to create plasma streams that aligned.
This mimicked the shock waves when plasma currents collided “in conditions similar to a supernova residual shock,” the statement said.
It was observed using optical and X-ray technology.
The mini cosmic phenomenon on Earth confirmed that the shock was able to accelerate electrons at the speed of light, according to Space.com.
Researchers failed to discover how electrons could reach such high speeds.
“We can’t see the details of how particles get their energy, even in the experiments, let alone in astrophysical observations, and this is where the simulations really come in handy,” said Anna Grassi, co-author of the new research as well at SLAC, said in the same statement.
After this, the study focused on computer modeling and revealed a possible solution – turbulent electromagnetic fields within the shock wave were able to accelerate electrons to the speeds of light.