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Progress Toward the Study of Laboratory Scale, Astrophysically Relevant, Turbulent Plasmas

Astrophysics and Space Science
Publication Date
  • Medicine
  • Physics


Recent results from an ongoing series of Rayleigh-Taylor instability experiments being conducted on the Omega Laser are described. The goal of these experiments is to study, in a controlled laboratory setting, the mixing that occurs at an unstable interface subjected to an acceleration history similar to the explosion phase of a core-collapse supernova. In a supernova, the Reynolds number characterizing this mixing is extremely large (Re > 10 10 ) and is more than sufficient to produce a turbulent flow at the interface. In the laboratory experiment, by contrast, the spatial scales are much smaller, but are still sufficiently large (Re > 10 5 ) to support a turbulent flow and therefore recreate the conditions relevant to the supernova problem. The data from these experiments will be used to validate astrophysical codes as well as to better understand the transition to turbulence in such high energy density systems. The experimental results to date using two-dimensional initial perturbations demonstrate a clear visual transition from a well-ordered perturbation structure consisting of only a few modes to one with considerable modal content. Analysis of these results, however, indicates that while a turbulent spectrum visually appears to be forming, the layer has not yet reached the asymptotic growth rate characteristic of a fully turbulent layer. Recent advances in both target fabrication and diagnostic techniques are discussed as well. These advances will allow for the study of well-controlled 3D perturbations, increasing our ability to recreate the conditions occurring in the supernova.

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