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Plasma astrophysics

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A field of physics that is growing in interest worldwide that tackles such astrophysical phenomena as the source of violent space weather and the formation of stars.

COLLOQUIUM: Space Physics and the Role of Magnetic Reconnection in Space Weather

Earth's magnetosphere is buffeted by the solar wind. The interaction transfers energy electro-mechanically into Earth's environment and sets the magnetospheric and ionospheric plasma into motion. The energy is ultimately converted to heat raising the scale-height of the ionosphere, and to energetic particles responsible for space weather. Magnetic reconnection plays a critical role in both energy input and energy release in geospace, in ways similar to energy conversion at the Sun and other astrophysical and laboratory systems. 

PPPL launches a $4.3 million project to expand research on magnetic reconnection

PPPL is developing a new and more powerful version of its world-leading Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX), which recreates one of the most common but least understood phenomena in the universe. This phenomenon, in which the magnetic field lines in plasma snap apart and violently reconnect, occurs throughout the cosmos and gives rise to the northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell-phone service and black out power grids.

PPPL launches a $4.3 million project to expand research on magnetic reconnection

PPPL is developing a new and more powerful version of its world-leading Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX), which recreates one of the most common but least understood phenomena in the universe. This phenomenon, in which the magnetic field lines in plasma snap apart and violently reconnect, occurs throughout the cosmos and gives rise to the northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell-phone service and black out power grids.

COLLOQUIUM: Extrasolar Planets with Small Telescopes

We now know more than one thousand extrasolar planets (exoplanets), and another two thousand exoplanet candidates.  Many of the best understood ones are so-called transiting exoplanets, and many were discovered by small telescopes.  I will review two currently running small telescopes projects (HATNet and HATSouth) that have altogether yielded 60 exoplanets.  I will highlight some of the discoveries and recent scientific results from these projects.

COLLOQUIUM: On Tracing the Origins of the Solar Wind

The Sun emits a constant flow of particles from its surface. Mainly composed of Protons and electrons, and dragging with it magnetic fields, this Solar Wind expands outwards from the sun, interacting with planets and spacecraft alike. Since the 1960s, in situ observations have shown that the solar wind is comprised of two distinct states: slow (300550 km/s) and fast (600800 km/s). Temperature, density, and compositional variations between the two suggest different sources for the fast and slow solar wind.

Princeton and PPPL launch center to study volatile space weather and violent solar storms

Researchers at Princeton University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have launched a new center to study the volatile heliosphere — a complex and frequently violent region of space that encompasses the solar system. This region is carved out by the solar wind — charged plasma particles that constantly stream from the sun — and gives rise to space weather that can disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and knock out power grids.

Celebrating Lyman Spitzer, the father of PPPL and the Hubble Space Telescope

Princeton astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer Jr. (1914-1997) was among the 20th Century’s most visionary scientists. His major influences range from founding the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and its quest for fusion energy, to inspiring the development of the Hubble Space Telescope and its images of the far corners of the universe.

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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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