Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UI-led team confirms 'gusty winds' in space turbulence

Study is first direct measurement of its kind in the lab
Imagine riding in an airplane as the plane is jolted back and forth by gusts of wind that you can’t prove exist but are there nonetheless.

Similar turbulence exists in space, and a research team led by the University of Iowa reports to have directly measured it for the first time in the laboratory.

“Turbulence is not restricted to environments here on Earth, but also arises pervasively throughout the solar system and beyond, driving chaotic motions in the ionized gas, or plasma, that fills the universe,” says Gregory Howes, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the UI and lead author of the paper to be published Dec. 17 in the online edition of Physical Review Letters, the journal of the American Physical Society. “It is thought to play a key role in heating the atmosphere of the sun, the solar corona, to temperatures of a million degrees Celsius, nearly a thousand times hotter than the surface of the sun."

Researchers at the University of Iowa and UCLA have measured space turbulence for the first time in a laboratory. The animation shows these bursts of turbulence, with the brighter colors (yellow, red) indicating increased turbulence. Credit: James Schoeder and Basic Plasma Science Facility, UCLA.
He adds: “Turbulence also regulates the formation of the stars throughout the galaxy, determines the radiation emitted from the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy and mediates the effects that space weather has on the Earth.“

One well known source of gusty space winds are the violent emissions of charged particles from the sun, known as coronal mass ejections. These solar-powered winds can adversely affect satellite communications, air travel and the electric power grid. On the positive side, solar storms also can also lead to mesmerizing auroras at the north and south poles on Earth.

Howes notes that unlike gusts of wind on the surface of the Earth, turbulent motions in space and astrophysical systems are governed by Alfven waves, which are traveling disturbances of the plasma and magnetic field. Nonlinear interactions between Alfven waves traveling up and down the magnetic field—such as two magnetic waves colliding to create a third wave—are a fundamental building block of plasma turbulence, and modern theories of astrophysical turbulence are based on this underlying concept, he says.

“We have presented the first experimental measurement in a laboratory plasma of the nonlinear interaction between counter-propagating Alfven waves, the fundamental building block of astrophysical turbulence,” Howes says.

Contributing authors on the paper are D.J. Drake, K.D. Nielson, Craig Kletzing, and Fred Skiff, all of the University of Iowa, and T.A. Carter of the University of California, Los Angeles. The research, conducted at the Large Plasma Device at UCLA, was funded by a grant from the NSF/DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science and Engineering.

Preprints of the abstract and paper, “Toward Astrophysical Turbulence in the Laboratory,” (PDF download) are available at:

Howes is a 2010 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers recipient. In 2011, he won a five-year Faculty Early Career Development Award from the NSF to study the near-Earth solar wind.
Gary Galuzzo, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0009
Gregory Howes, Physics and Astronomy, 510-295-8242

Gary Galluzzo | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>