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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.

Plasma bubbles help trigger massive magnetic events in outer space

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have discovered key conditions that give rise to fast magnetic reconnection, the process that triggers solar flares, auroras, and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt signal transmissions and other electrical activities, including cell phone service. The process occurs when the magnetic field lines in plasma, the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei, break apart and violently reconnect, releasing vast amounts of energy.

Stewart Prager honored with FPA Distinguished Career Award

Stewart Prager, physicist and long-time fusion energy scientist who was director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) from 2009 to 2016, has been honored with a 2017 Distinguished Career Award from Fusion Power Associates (FPA). Prager, a leading contributor to the advancement of plasma physics and fusion science, received the award at the 38th annual meeting of FPA held Dec. 6-7 in Washington, D.C.

PPPL and Max Planck physicists reveal experimental verification of a key source of fast reconnection of magnetic fields

Magnetic reconnection, a universal process that triggers solar flares and northern lights and can disrupt cell phone service and fusion experiments, occurs much faster than theory says that it should. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics have discovered a source of the speed-up in a common form of reconnection. Their findings could lead to more accurate predictions of damaging space weather and improved fusion experiments.

PPPL physicists make first-ever direct observation of collisional plasmoid instability during magnetic reconnection in a laboratory setting

Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have for the first time directly observed a phenomenon that had previously only been hypothesized to exist. The phenomenon, plasmoid instabilities that occur during collisional magnetic reconnection, had until this year only been observed indirectly using remote-sensing technology.

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