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Solar flares, cosmic radiation, and the northern lights are well known phenomena. But exactly how their enormous energy arises is not as well understood. Now, physicists at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a new way to study these spectacular space plasma phenomena in a laboratory environment. The results have been published in the renowned journal Nature Communications.
"Scientists have been trying to bring these space phenomena down to earth for a decade. With our new method we can enter a new era, and investigate what was previously impossible to study. It will tell us more about how these events occur," says Longqing Yi, researcher at the Department of Physics at Chalmers.
Research - Reconnection - Process - Rise - Phenomena
The research concerns so-called 'magnetic reconnection' – the process which gives rise to these phenomena. Magnetic reconnection causes sudden conversion of energy stored in the magnetic field into heat and kinetic energy. This happens when two plasmas with anti-parallel magnetic fields are pushed together, and the magnetic field lines converge and reconnect. This interaction leads to violently accelerated plasma particles that can sometimes be seen with the naked eye – for example, during the northern lights.
Magnetic reconnection in space can also influence us on earth. The creation of solar flares can interfere with communications satellites, and thus affect power grids, air traffic and telephony.
Order - Space - Plasma - Phenomena - Laboratory
In order to imitate and study these spectacular space plasma phenomena in the laboratory, you need a high-power laser, to create...
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