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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.

"Coordinated Solar Energetic Events", Professor Alan M. Title, Lockheed Martin Advance Technology Center/Stanford University

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on the Solar Dynamic Observatory with obtains  full disk images that span the temperature range from 6000 to 20,000,000K with  arcsecond resolution and a 12 second cadence. Because of the enhanced thermal and temporal coverage and the high dynamic range available with AIA, it has been able to discovery collective behavior associated with energeti solar events that are driven by the expansion of magnetic structures.

"The Voyager Mission to the Outer Planets and Interstellar Space", Dr. Alan C. Cummings, California Institute of Technology

Thirty-five years after their launches in 1977, the twin Voyager spacecraft have completed the Grand Tour of the outer planets and are now exploring the outer regions of the heliosphere. Soon they will be the first man-made objects to enter and explore interstellar space. Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock of the solar wind on December 16 2004 and Voyager 2 crossed the same structure on August 30 2007. The next destination is the heliopause, the boundary between plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun and plasma and magnetic fields from our galaxy.

Stewart Prager

Stewart Prager is the sixth director of PPPL. He joined the Laboratory in 2009 after a long career at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. At Wisconsin, he led research on the “Madison Symmetric Torus” (MST) experiment and headed a center that studied plasmas in both the laboratory and the cosmos. He also co-discovered the “bootstrap current” there—a key finding that has influenced the design of today’s tokamaks. He earned his PhD in plasma physics from Columbia University.

Hantao Ji

For more than 20 years, Hantao Ji has been interested in the converging fields of plasma physics and astrophysics, and has dedicated his career to bringing them closer together.

"On the Formation of Massive Galaxies"

Looking backwards, using fossil evidence from nearby galaxies provides a plausible picture of how galaxies have formed over cosmic time. Also, going forwards, the present quite definite cosmological model, shows how perturbations grew from low amplitude fluctuations via standard physical processes to the present world. Finally, we can employ large telescopes as a time-machines – directly observing the past history of our light-cone. While none of these approaches gives results accurate to more than 5-10%, a plausible picture emerges. Massive galaxies form in two phases.

PPPL: Great story, Bright Future

Perspective on: The future of fusion
Name: Stewart Prager
Title: Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Administrative focus:Prager, a well-known plasma physicist and fusion scientist with a distinguished career and a record of discovery at the University of Wisconsin, arrived in January 2009 as director of PPPL, the United States’ leading magnetic fusion facility.


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

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