Plasma Physics Seminar
Monday, May 7
2535 Engineering Hall
Speaker: Professor Jan Egedal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Magnetic Reconnection in Plasmas; a Celestial Phenomenon in the Laboratory"
Abstract: Coronal mass ejections from the sun are the most explosive events that occur in our solar system. Closer to home, the aurora borealis is one of the most spectacular, naturally occurring, light show at high latitudes on the Earth. Both of these large scale events are driven by magnetic reconnection in plasmas. The spontaneous rearrangement of magnetic field topology provides the enormous energy needed for these celestially magnificent and diverse phenomena.
For more than fifty years, magnetic reconnection has been a fascinating topic of research in plasma physics. While we do not fully understand the process of reconnection, significant progress has been made in the past decade through detailed analysis of laboratory experiments, and computer simulations. The Versatile Toroidal Facility at MIT is one such experiment dedicated to the study of magnetic reconnection. In this talk I will describe the recent experimental observations which have led to a new theoretical paradigm for magnetic reconnection. Large scale computer simulations support the theoretical and experimental results. The analysis of experimental observations in a laboratory device has led to a comprehensive understanding of data from spacecraft observing celestial reconnection events in the Earth’s magnetosphere.