Honorable Mention - Elizabeth Hicks

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics

"Gravitationally Unstable Flame"

A white dwarf is a star (about the size of the Earth) that has reached the end of its life cycle, as our own Sun will one day. Most white dwarfs eventually cool down and fade away.  But, as one theory has it, a white dwarf may gather matter from a red giant companion star and consequently explode as a Type Ia supernova.

During a supernova, the elements carbon and oxygen fuse into heavier elements, including nickel and iron. This nuclear reaction takes place inside the star, in a very thin, quickly moving, burning zone called a “flame.”

This image shows a computer simulation of a model supernova flame (red). Hicks creates simulations that measure how fast the flame burns and how changes in the gravitational field affect the speed of the reaction. She uses that data to better understand Type Ia supernova explosions, which can tell astronomers more about the expansion of the universe.

Technique: VisIT software, Nek5000 code and Northwestern Quest facility, computer generated

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