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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: Dawn, the Asteroid Redirect Mission, and the Future of Solar Electric Propulsion

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.

PPPL scientists take key step toward solving a major astrophysical mystery

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.

PPPL scientists take key step toward solving a major astrophysical mystery

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.

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.

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