Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Thin current sheets in space: where the action is

01.08.2012
Much of the exciting action is space is confined to thin boundaries. The Universe is filled with plasma, a charged gas consisting of ions and electrons.
Thin sheets with currents separate large plasma regions in space. Scientists at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) have now finally measured the fundamental properties of one of the waves mixing and accelerating plasmas within these sheets.

Around Earth, the processes accelerating electrons which hit the atmosphere and cause beautiful auroras are often initiated in thin current sheets. Similar processes, auroras and thin current sheets are found around other planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.
Plasma regions close to the hot solar surface are separated by thin current sheets, and similar boundaries should also be common around distant stars. In man-made plasmas, thin boundaries are found in the tokamak plasma employed in nuclear fusion research and space observations may help us understand fusion plasmas.

The solar wind blows plasma at the Earth’s magnetic field. This causes the so-called magnetotail, stretching several hundred thousand kilometres downstream from the Earth. There is a thin current sheet separating the northern and southern parts of the tail.

In large parts of space, the plasma is too tenuous for the particles to actually collide. However, since the particles are charged, electric fields caused by some particles will interact with other particles. Often rather specific waves in the electric field interchange energy between the plasma particles. These waves replace ordinary collisions.

The lower hybrid drift waves have been studied for 50 years and are thought to play an important role in these narrow current sheets. However, due to their relatively short wavelength, it has been impossible to observe their fundamental properties. IRF’s scientists have now, for the first time, been able to make direct measurements of the wavelength and velocity of these waves.

It has not been possible to measure the wavelength with a single spacecraft, but this can be done with the European Space Agency’s four Cluster spacecraft. Taking advantage of the short 40 km separation between two of the four spacecraft in the magnetotail during August 2007, the scientists could observe the same wave propagating past first one and then the other spacecraft. The wavelength could be determined to be about 60 km (comparable to the radius of the electron gyro-motion in the magnetic field) and the velocity to about 1000 km/s (comparable to the ion velocity). The results appeared in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters on 31 July.

"We see small vortices that propagate in this narrow current sheet. They are just big enough so that both of the spacecraft can see them at the same time and be sure it is the same structure," says Cecilia Norgren of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and a PhD student at Uppsala University. "The assumptions, used for several decades, have finally been verified by direct observations."
Cecilia Norgren, PhD student, IRF and Uppsala University, tel. +46-18-471 5934, cecilia.norgren@irfu.se

Mats André, Professor, IRF, tel. +46-70-779 2072, mats.andre@irfu.se

Rick McGregor, Information Officer, IRF, tel. +46-980-79178, rick.mcgregor@irfu.se

Rick McGregor | idw
Further information:
http://www.vr.se
http://www.cluster.irfu.se/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>