Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Physicists uncover new solution for cosmic collisions

It turns out that our math teachers were right: being able to solve problems without a calculator does come in handy in the “real” world. Two theoretical physicists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have used what they call “pen-and-paper math” to describe the motion of interstellar shock waves — violent events associated with the birth of stars and planets.

The findings, published recently in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, could provide astronomers with important information on the history of the solar system, the formation of stars, and the creation of chemicals that may have formed the basis for planets and even life on Earth.

“Shock waves can teach us valuable information about the history of our solar system,” said Wayne Roberge, lead author and professor of physics, applied physics, and astronomy at Rensselaer. “If we can understand shock waves — how they move, what leads to their formation, their temperature — we can begin to understand where we came from and what our galaxy went through five billion years ago.”

The mathematical solution developed by Roberge and his colleague, adjunct professor Glenn Ciolek, reveals the force and movement of shock waves in plasma, the neutral and charged matter that makes up the dilute “air” of space. Unlike many previous studies of its kind, the researchers focused specifically on shock waves in plasma, which move matter in very different ways than the uncharged air on Earth.

According to the researchers, the findings could influence the success of research conducted by NASA’s upcoming mission, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft with an infrared telescope expected to begin test flights in the coming months. Roberge noted that the findings could also be important for studies using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (the infrared sister of the Hubble Telescope).

“Astronomers are now venturing into infrared telescopes, which allows you to look deeper into space,” Roberge said. “But because they can only detect heat, the search for chemicals in deep space using infrared technology is greatly hindered in cold interstellar space.” Super-hot shock waves are like fiery arrows in the sky when viewed through an infrared telescope, pointing out the origins and destination of chemicals throughout the universe, Roberge said.

“Our mathematical solution will help point astronomers in the right direction when they look at shock waves,” he said. “It lets them know what they should discover. We hope the actual space images developed in the coming months and years prove our calculations to be correct.”

As shock waves travel, they heat and condense interstellar plasma, forming new chemical compounds through intense heat and pressure. The motion of shock waves also distributes the chemical products around the galaxy. On Earth, shock waves are commonly associated with supersonic aircraft and explosions. In space, shock waves are commonly associated with the birth or death of a star.

When stars are born, they often emit jets of matter moving at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour. The impact of these jets onto surrounding material creates an extreme and sudden disturbance. This material does not have time to react to the sudden pile-up of energy and mass. Shock waves lash out into the surrounding plasma to expel the sudden force. These shock waves spread material through space, potentially “seeding” new solar systems with chemicals that may be important for life.

“Now that we understand how fast and far these waves move in space, we can begin to understand how chemicals, including chemicals necessary for life, can be formed by shock waves and spread around the universe to form new stars, planets, and life,” Roberge said.

Gabrielle DeMarco | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>