Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition: How to Make a Supernova

Harnessing the power of lasers to recreate astrophysical events in the laboratory! Supernova explosions are one of the most powerful events in the universe, the violent death of an exploding star.

  • Supernovas radiate unprecedented energy,
  • Outshine entire galaxies, and
  • Release elements that make up our physical bodies.

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In fact, your left hand may have come from a different exploding star than your right hand!

Today, the largest and most powerful lasers in the world can deliver more energy than ever within a lab. The Orion laser can deliver 1,000 times the power of the entire US national grid in just a fraction of a second, over an area smaller than a pin head.

Squeezing so much power into a small amount of time and space allows us to create unbelievably extreme conditions – the same conditions that power some of the most energetic events in the universe.

Because of this, we can now recreate and study some of the most violent astrophysical events known in our universe within the confines of a lab, such as supernova explosions and collisions of galaxy clusters.

Imagine being able to create tiny supernovas that could fit in the palm of your hand, and to witness their entire lifespan within a fraction of a second instead of waiting around for thousands of years!

Our research is helping us better understand some of the most powerful natural processes known to humankind, and more importantly, the origins of our universe.

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Follow us on Twitter! @MakeASupernova

This exhibit is brought to you by our collaborative team: University of Oxford's OxCHEDS , AWE's Orion Laser Facility, and Imperial College's Plasma Physics