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Supernova for National Security

The latest x-ray images of a supernova explosion remnant provide insight into the physics of nuclear explosions
April 1, 2014
Supernova for National Security

The Cassiopeia A supernova remnant as imaged by NASA’s Chandra x-ray observatory CREDIT: NASA/CXC/SAO

X-ray images of turbulent supernova debris aid nuclear weapons modeling

Every computer simulation of a core-collapse supernova, in which an imploding stellar core triggers an explosion, includes code that accounts for turbulence in the core and body of the star. The only way to be sure that code is correct is to simulate the system and compare the output with what’s seen in images of a real supernova. Interestingly, turbulence also shows up in another system that first implodes and then explodes—the core of a nuclear weapon. Like astrophysicists, weapons scientists need to validate their computer codes, and because the underlying physics governing the turbulence is the same between in two systems, Los Alamos weapons scientists were able to learn about weapons modeling from the Cas A data.

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