Plasma boffins' POWERFUL wind now a key clue to fiery Sun

Astrophysical turbulence experienced in lab hotbox


Boffins have attempted to recreate astrophysical turbulence in the laboratory, so they can study the force that forms stars, carries heat across galaxies and troubles the edge of the Earth's magnetosphere.

Using the Large Plasma Device at UCLA, physicists took high resolution images of turbulent plasma in the chamber and were able to test out current theories of what happens when plasma goes wild. They found that the models held good for the scenarios they tested.

Space turbulence is a force that regulates the formation of the stars throughout the galaxy and determines the radiation emitted from the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It also makes the Sun's corona - the fiery haze that surrounds the Sun - up to 1,000 times hotter than the Sun's surface, reaching temperatures of a million degrees Celsius.

A solar prominence, credit NASA

A solar prominence erupts into the Sun's corona. Photo by NASA

Closer to Earth, turbulence caused by violent emissions of charged particles from the Sun creates solar-powered winds that disrupt satellite signals and affect weather on the planet.

The scientists wanted to test out if the modern theory of astrophysical turbulence held good in experiments. According to current theory, turbulent motions in space and astrophysical systems are governed by Alfven waves, which are traveling disturbances of the plasma and magnetic field. The scientists wanted to test what happens in nonlinear interactions between Alfven waves traveling up and down the magnetic field — such as two magnetic waves colliding to create a third wave. The resulting turbulence confirmed what researchers expected about plasma behaviour.

It is almost impossible to measure the effects of astrophysical plasma in space itself - the paper explains that only lab experiments can achieve the controlled conditions and allow scientists to take the high-resolution images necessary.

Toward Astrophysical Turbulence in the Laboratory is published in Physical Review Letters, the journal of the American Physical Society. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Liftoff at last for South Korean space program
    Satellite-deploying rocket finally launches – after a few setbacks

    South Korea's Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) yesterday succeeded in its endeavor to send the home-grown Nuri launcher into space, then place a working satellite in orbit.

    The launch was scheduled for earlier in June but was delayed by weather and then again by an anomaly in a first-stage oxidizer tank. Its October 2021 launch failed to deploy a dummy satellite, thanks to similar oxidizer tank problems that caused internal damage.

    South Korea was late to enter the space race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the US, which prohibited it developing a space program. That agreement was set aside and yesterday's launch is the culmination of more than a decade of development. The flight puts South Korea in a select group of nations that have demonstrated the capability to build and launch domestically designed and built orbital-class rockets.

    Continue reading
  • NASA circles August in its diary to put Artemis I capsule in Moon orbit
    First steps by humans to recapture planet's natural satellite

    NASA is finally ready to launch its unmanned Orion spacecraft and put it in the orbit of the Moon. Lift-off from Earth is now expected in late August using a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

    This launch, a mission dubbed Artemis I, will be a vital stage in the Artemis series, which has the long-term goal of ferrying humans to the lunar surface using Orion capsules and SLS technology.

    Earlier this week NASA held a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) for the SLS vehicle – fueling it and getting within 10 seconds of launch. The test uncovered 13 problems, including a hydrogen fuel leak in the main booster, though NASA has declared that everything's fine for a launch next month.

    Continue reading
  • AWS sent edgy appliance to the ISS and it worked – just like all the other computers up there
    Congrats, AWS, you’ve boldly gone where the Raspberry Pi has already been

    Amazon Web Services has proudly revealed that the first completely private expedition to the International Space Station carried one of its Snowcone storage appliances, and that the device worked as advertised.

    The Snowcone is a rugged shoebox-sized unit packed full of disk drives – specifically 14 terabytes of solid-state disk – a pair of VCPUs and 4GB of RAM. The latter two components mean the Snowcone can run either EC2 instances or apps written with AWS’s Greengrass IoT product. In either case, the idea is that you take a Snowcone into out-of-the-way places where connectivity is limited, collect data in situ and do some pre-processing on location. Once you return to a location where bandwidth is plentiful, it's assumed you'll upload the contents of a Snowcone into AWS and do real work on it there.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022