Scientists have debuted a theory using the explosions seen in industrial accidents to understand supernovae in a new paper.

Destructive explosions typically involve several different kinds of processes: deflagration, or flames igniting a medium slower than the speed of sound, and detonation, faster-than-sound shockwaves compressing and igniting the fuel Initiating a detonation hard, especially in a system without any confining boundaries – like an open-air industrial accident or, say, a supernova.

Using simulations, theory, and even an experiment, the scientists realised that flames interacting with an intensely turbulent environment can set off one of these unconfined detonations, though.

The study’s first author, Alexei Poludnenko from Texas A in the US, started out as an astrophysicist by training, working on a longstanding problem in our understanding of supernova: how does an unconfined ball of gas detonate, without the force just whiffing it away?

“My thinking was that maybe astrophysicists weren’t talking to combustion physicists who deal with these things every day,” Poludnenko told Gizmodo.

He and others began working on a unified theory of these explosions, and began running numerical models simulating unconfined explosions on supercomputers.

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