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Journal of Student Scholarship

Journal of Student Scholarship

Abstract

Supernovae are some of the most powerful explosions that occur in our universe. These explosions generate massive shock waves that span tens of light years in distance. They are responsible for atomic fusion that creates the denser elements, needed for the creation of planets such as our own. The goal of this project was to simulate a supernova on a small scale, in order to study the resultant shock waves and their effects upon the interstellar medium. This research can improve understanding of the impact these events have upon the formation of solar systems and the composition of the interstellar medium itself. In order to simulate a supernova in the lab, two electrodes were fashioned from sputter-coated aluminum and affixed within a scientific vacuum chamber. The vacuum chamber was pumped down, then re-pressurized with helium or argon gas. A 13.56 MHz radio frequency plasma was sparked and maintained using a 120- Watt RF generator and matching network. Characteristic UV-Vis-NIR spectra for argon and helium were recorded as functions of pressure, power, and position in the chamber. An attempt was made to capture high speed images of shock waves during vaporization of a graphite rod in the plasma chamber, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

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