Scientists just created a tiny supernova in a lab right here on Earth

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Jun 3, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

Scientists have created a legit, tiny supernova in lab conditions. It didn’t make the Earth explode, so that’s a good sign.

Researchers at the U.K.'s Vulcan laser lab used three high-powered light beams "focused on a carbon rod target not much thicker than a strand of hair" to create a supernova. Yeah, that’s right — a supernova.

If you’re unfamiliar, a real-life supernova is a stellar explosion that is absolutely massive (hence the “super” part) and can radiate as much energy as our sun will give off during its entire lifespan. They’re typically caused by the sudden resignation of nuclear fusion in a degenerate star, or the gravitational collapse of a star. Or, you know, by curious scientists.

The purpose of the U.K. experiment was to better understand the shape of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A in the constellation Cassiopeia, located 11,000 light-years away from Earth.

Though the lab ‘nova was much (much, much, much) smaller than a real one, Oxford University physics professor Gianluca Gregori noted it's still relevant because the concepts can be “scaled from one to the other in the same way that waves in a bucket are comparable to waves in the ocean. So our experiments can complement observations of events such as the Cassiopeia A supernova explosion.”

Fair enough. You can find more info about the experiment in their findings paper, published at Nature Physics.

(Via Sploid, Nature Physics)