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Fission Hypothesis of Binary Star Formation

Whitworth's (1981) Isothermal Free-Energy Surface
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Figure 1
Droplet Fission

YouTube video:
Skylab Drop Dynamics Experiment (1975)

Figure 2
Theoretical Model
Brown & Scriven (1980)
(Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 276, 389)

Figure 4
USML-1 Experiment
Wang, Anilkumar, Lee & Lin (1994)
(Proc. Roy. Soc. London, 371, 331)

Figure 3
Hachisu & Eriguchi scenario
Hachisu & Eriguchi (1984)
(Astrophysics and Space Science, 99, 71)

Related Discussions

Fission in Nuclear Physics

The nuclear physics community also draws an analogy between the fission of a rotating fluid drop and the spontaneous fission of atomic nuclei; see, for example, the figure associated with the Wikipedia discussion of the energetics of nuclear fission.

Drop Dynamics Experiments

[On 1 January 2014, J. E. Tohline wrote ...] As I was putting this chapter together, I had difficulty documenting the various drop dynamics experiments that have been conducted by astronauts in various Earth-orbiting (zero g) environments. Here is the relevant information that I have found, to date:

  • Skylab (circa 1973-1974): Experiments showing the fission of liquid drops were evidently conducted during the Skylab 2, Skylab 3, and Skylab 4 missions.
    • As has been documented in a short film review written by Howard Voss and published in the American Journal of Physics (44/10, 1021, Oct 1976), film footage from a variety of Skylab experiments was produced by NASA, edited by Thomas Campbell & Robert Fuller, and, beginning in 1976, distributed as 12 Super 8 film loops by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).
    • As is documented in A Teacher's Guide for the Skylab Physics Videodisc the content of all 12 Super 8 film loops was made available for distribution in Videodisc format in 1987 through the AAPT.
    • The YouTube video referenced in and linked to the caption of Figure 1, above, is the digitized version of the Skylab film loop that illustrates fission of a water droplet.
    • Wang, Trinh, Croonquist, and Elleman (1986; Physical Review Letters, 56, 452) report results from a controlled drop dynamics experiment that was conducted during the "Spacelab III mission" (see the final acknowledgement paragraph of their paper). Presumably they meant to say "Skylab III," which, according to NASA's historical accounting, was officially designated "Skylab 4" involving the THIRD TEAM of astronauts identified below. It is interesting to note that Wang et al. (1986) do not mention any of these astronauts by name in their published acknowledgements.

According to the Teacher's Guide mentioned above, the activities shown in the above-referenced films were carried out by three teams of Skylab Astronauts:

Skylab Astronauts

Kerwin blows water droplet from a straw

Skylab 2 (First Team)

  • Space Shuttle Flights (circa 1992): Experiments illustrating the dynamical behavior of liquid drops were evidently also conducted during a couple of space shuttle missions. The experiments were performed with the aid of a "Drop Physics Module (DPM)" inside the "portable" United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML) that was housed in the shuttle's payload bay.
    • USML-1 Droplet Fission
      The first mission — USML-1 during shuttle flight STS-50 — took place in early 1992. According to information provided by NASA/JPL's public information office, "… the transition of rotating liquid drops into a 'dog-bone,' or two-lobed shape, was studied in detail …" Detailed results from DPM experiments during the USML-1 mission have been published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics: T. G. Wang, A. V. Anilkumar, C. P. Lee and K. C. Lin (1994). Bifurcation of rotating liquid drops: results from USML-1 experiments in Space. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 276, pp 389-403
    • I think that the three-frame black & white image shown here on the right presents a result from mission USML-1. That is how this image is referenced in an online discussion of fission that I put together about a decade ago.
    • The second mission — USML-2 during shuttle flight STS-73 — took place in the fall of 1995. It does not appear as though the fission of liquid drops was an element of these USML-2 DPM experiments.
  • International Space Station (circa 2000):
    • See the two "Gallery of Fluid Motions" mpg movies that accompany the preprint by Ueno et al. (2012).

Online References

Whitworth's (1981) Isothermal Free-Energy Surface

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Recommended citation:   Tohline, Joel E. (2021), The Structure, Stability, & Dynamics of Self-Gravitating Fluids, a (MediaWiki-based) publication,

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