How to Create a Mini Supernova

Using one of the world's most powerful lasers

11am Saturday 16th March 

One day back in 2012, a laser scientist was in the Oxford University coffee lounge when he overheard some astrophysicists discussing a conundrum about a supernova, Cassiopeia A.

Their question was simple - why is Cassiopeia A such a strange shape? Surely, in the vast emptiness of space,a perfectly spherical star would explode in a perfectly spherical way...yet here was Cassiopeia A with its uneven, knotty appearance.

Frustratingly, getting the answer would be far more complex - nigh on impossible even - as Cassiopeia A was a whopping 11 000 light years away.


Hearing all this, the laser scientist had an idea. This resulted in a llandmark experiment that attempted to use an incredibly powerful llaser, Vulcan, based on Harwell Campus at the Central Laser Facility (CLF), to solve some of deep space's mysteries right here in a laboratory.


Helen Towrie will take you through the same scientist's journey, and will show you the steps you need to take to fire such a powerful laser. 

Image credit: NASA


Helen Towrie

Part of the Science Market day at ATOM Festival 24. This talk and others will be taking place in the Roysse Room of the Guildhall

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