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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.

Worldwide conference on plasma science coming to Princeton area

More than 350 participants from around the world will gather in Plainsboro, N.J., on September 30 for the 66th Annual Gaseous Electronics Conference (GEC). The week-long event will bring together physicists from numerous plasma science disciplines for workshops, panels and poster sessions on topics ranging from basic research to uses for plasma in microchip etching, nano- material manufacturing and other technologies.

COLLOQUIUM: The Formation of Stellar Groups

Stars do not form singly, but in groups. Within the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy, we have systems ranging in population from 100 to 10,000 members. Their origin is still poorly understood, and many basic questions remain.  How do local conditions in the interstellar medium lead to one type of group rather than another? Why do the most populous and massive groups disperse after a few million years,  while comparatively unimpressive systems of a few hundred stars remain intact for up to a billion years?

A.J. Stewart Smith, Princeton's first dean for research, becomes vice president for PPPL

A. J. Stewart Smith, the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics, served as Princeton's first dean for research from 2006 to 2013. On July 1 he begins a newly created position as vice president for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

In his tenure as dean, Smith built the Office of the Dean for Research from its inception into a fully functioning department of professionals dedicated to making the University research activities run smoothly.

PPPL partners with China in an ambitious new center for fusion research

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has joined with five leading Chinese research institutions to form an international center to advance the development of fusion energy. Creators of the center organized its framework in March at a two-day session in Hefei, China, that brought together leaders of the world’s major fusion programs.

COLLOQUIUM: Laboratory Study of Magnetic Reconnection: Recent Discoveries on MRX

Magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon of nature in which magnetic field lines change their topology in plasma and convert magnetic energy to particles by acceleration and heating. It is one of the most fundamental processes at work in laboratory and astrophysical plasmas. Magnetic reconnection occurs everywhere: in solar flares; coronal mass ejections; the earth’s magnetosphere; in the star forming galaxies; and in plasma fusion devices.

COLLOQUIUM: "Laboratory Dynamos"

One of the most fundamental tenets of astrophysical plasma physics is that magnetic fields can be stretched and amplified by flowing plasmas. In the right geometry, this can even lead to the self-generation of magnetic fields from flow through the dynamo process, a positive feedback instability where seed magnetic fields are stretched and amplified by flow in such a way as to reinforce the initial seed. This happens only when plasma is highly conducting, fast flowing, and when the magnetic field is weak. Laboratory plasmas exploring this parameter regime are surprisingly rare.

COLLOQUIUM: The Alfvénic Motions of the Sun's Outer Atmosphere

In 2005 a novel imaging spectro-polarimeter, the Coronal Multi-channel Polarimeter (CoMP), was deployed to the Evans Facility in Sunspot, NM to measure the solar corona’s magnetic field. The design of the instrument permitted it to capture something quite unexpected – the ubiquitous Alfvénic motion of the coronal plasma. Shortly thereafter the NASA/JAXA Hinode mission observed the roots of the Alfvénic motion in the complex chromospheric boundary region between the Sun’s surface and the corona.

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