IPS Progress: Nature Physics 5, 821
Posted on November 1, 2009

X-ray astronomy in the laboratory with a miniature compact object produced by laser-driven implosion

Abstract: X-ray spectroscopy is an important tool for understanding the extreme photoionization processes that drive the behaviour of non-thermal equilibrium plasmas in compact astrophysical objects such as black holes. Even so, the distance of these objects from the Earth and the inability to control or accurately ascertain the conditions that govern their behaviour makes it difficult to interpret the origin of the features in astronomical X-ray measurements. Here, we describe an experiment that uses the implosion driven by a 3 TW, 4 kJ laser system to produce a 0.5 keV blackbody radiator that mimics the conditions that exist in the neighbourhood of a black hole. The X-ray spectra emitted from photoionized silicon plasmas resemble those observed from the binary stars Cygnus X-3 and Vela X-1 with the Chandra X-ray satellite. As well as demonstrating the ability to create extreme radiation fields in a laboratory plasma, our theoretical interpretation of these laboratory spectra contrasts starkly with the generally accepted explanation for the origin of similar features in astronomical observations. Our experimental approach offers a powerful means to test and validate the computer codes used in X-ray astronomy.

Online Link: http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/v5/n11/full/nphys1402.html
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