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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Direct Numerical Simulations of Type Ia Supernovae Flames. II. The Rayleigh-Taylor Instability

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A Type la supernova explosion likely begins as a nuclear runaway near the center of a carbon-oxygen white dwarf. The outward-propagating flame is unstable to the Landau-Darrieus, Rayleigh-Taylor, and Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities, which serve to accelerate it to a large fraction of the speed of sound. We investigate the Rayleigh-Taylor unstable flame at the transition from the flamelet regime to the distributed burning regime, around densities of 10 7 g cm-3, through detailed, fully resolved simulations. A low Mach number, adaptive mesh hydrodynamics code is used to achieve the necessary resolution and long timescales. As the density is varied, we see a fundamental change in the character of the burning: at the low end of the density range, the Rayleigh-Taylor instability dominates the burning, whereas at the high end, the burning suppresses the instability. In all cases, significant acceleration of the flame is observed, limited only by the size of the domain we are able to study. We discuss the implications of these results on the potential for a deflagration to detonation transition.

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