Tiny snowflakes of radioactive uranium that trigger massive nuclear blasts might explain some of the universe’s more mysterious star explosions.
As smallish stars die, they cool into husks of their former selves known as white dwarfs. New research proposes that atoms of uranium sink to the centers of these aging white dwarf stars as they cool, freezing into snowflake-like crystals no bigger than grains of sand. There, these “snowflakes” can act as some of the tiniest nuclear bombs in the universe, becoming the “spark that sets off the powder keg,” said study co-author Matt Caplan, a theoretical physicist at Illinois State University.
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