Zach Meisel, assistant professor of physics and astronomy. Photo credit: Ohio University
13.8 billion years ago the universe as we know it was created with the Big Bang. From a single point, a massive explosion created the lighter chemical elements, including hydrogen and helium. The universe has been expanding ever since.
But how were heavier elements formed—those with more electrons, protons and neutrons? It turns out that stars are giant nuclear reactors, and when some die they collapse and then rapidly expand as a supernova explosion. The enormous pressures and temperatures that result can then lead to the formation of heavier elements.
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Zach Meisel investigates how the various elements were made in the universe. His research involves simulating stellar explosions on the computer and in Ohio University’s Edwards Accelerator Laboratory, a 4.5 million-volt tandem accelerator that is the size of a small school bus. The accelerator can crash atomic particles into each other at 14 percent of the speed of light, simulating the tremendous pressures and temperatures experienced during the Big Bang and in supernovae.
At his Science Café discussion, “Life after Death: Element Creation in Stellar Explosions,” Meisel will discuss how star death produces chemical elements and how nuclear astrophysics try to recreate these explosions in the lab. The event will be held at 5 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 1 in the Baker Center Front Room.
Science Cafés are part of Ohio University’s Café Series, Wednesdays at the Baker Center Front Room. The series provides a venue for students to informally share their interests during a conversational exchange with faculty presenters, staff and the Athens community. Free coffee is offered to the first 50 attendees, and participants who ask questions can win a free t-shirt.
The series is supported by the Ohio University Research Division and Sigma Xi.
Learn more! Watch the 1-minute Café Series video: