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.
At 10:44 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, NASA launched the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS), a set of four spacecraft that will study the magnetic fields surrounding Earth. Sent into space aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, the craft mark the first NASA mission dedicated to investigating magnetic reconnection, a mysterious phenomenon that gives rise to the northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell phone service, black out power grids and damage orbiting satellites.
For over 60 years type II solar radio bursts have defied detailed quantitative explanation, despite their promise for predicting space weather at Earth and their status as the archetype for coherent radio emission stimulated by shocks.
Investigating long-term solutions to the world's energy needs and investing in sustainable technologies are crucial as the climate crisis comes into focus, a set of experts cautioned at Princeton University on Nov. 14.
Billions upon billions of neutrinos speed harmlessly through everyone’s body every moment of the day, according to cosmologists. The bulk of these subatomic particles are believed to come straight from the Big Bang, rather than from the sun or other sources. Experimental confirmation of this belief could yield seminal insights into the early universe and the physics of neutrinos. But how do you interrogate something so elusive that it could zip through a barrier of iron a light-year thick as if it were empty space?
Some 135 researchers, graduate students, and staff members from PPPL joined 1,500 research scientists from around the world at the 56th annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics Conference from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31 in New Orleans. Topics in the sessions ranged from waves in plasma to the physics of ITER, the international physics experiment in Cadarache, France; to women in plasma physics. Dozens of PPPL scientists presented the results of their cutting-edge research into magnetic fusion and plasma science.
This year, planetary spacecraft will visit two significant bodies in the solar system. These bodies are the dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto. Ceres was first discovered in 1801 and thought to be a planet. It was only realized 50 years later that Ceres was a member of a huge number of objects in what we now know as the asteroid belt. The Dawn spacecraft was just captured into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. After spending more than a year at another asteroid called Vesta and spending 2.5 years finally getting to Ceres.
The ongoing Dawn mission has as its goal the exploration of the two most massive main-belt asteroids, 4 Vesta and 1 Ceres. This mission is enabled by an on-board, solar powered, ion propulsion system that will provide a total velocity change to the spacecraft of 11 km/s using 425 kg of xenon propellant. Launched in 2007, Dawn has already completed its investigation of Vesta and has successfully rendezvoused with Ceres.
Magnetic reconnection can trigger geomagnetic storms that disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and blackout power grids. But how reconnection, in which the magnetic field lines in plasma snap apart and violently reconnect, transforms magnetic energy into explosive particle energy remains a major unsolved problem in plasma astrophysics. Magnetic field lines represent the strength and direction of magnetic fields.
© 2015 Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. All rights reserved.