Researchers use high-energy lasers to study magnetic reconnection

Magnetic reconnection in a solar flare

Screenshot from NASA’s Conceptual Picture Lab on “Magnetic Reconnection Throughout the Photo voltaic System.” Magnetic reconnection happens when parallel magnetic fields – discovered on this case in photo voltaic flares – collide, break and realign. This course of produces a high-energy explosion that catapults particles by area. Credit score: NASA Conceptual Picture Lab

Scientists use highly effective lasers to create miniature photo voltaic flares to check the method of magnetic reconnection.

Scientists used twelve high-energy laser beams to simulate mini photo voltaic flares as a way to examine the underlying mechanisms of magnetic reconnection, a basic astronomical phenomenon.

Opposite to widespread perception, the universe just isn’t empty. Regardless of the phrase “the huge void of area”, the universe is crammed with numerous supplies corresponding to charged particles, gases, and cosmic rays. Whereas celestial our bodies could appear uncommon, the universe is bustling with exercise.

One such drive of particles and power by area is a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection. Because the identify suggests, magnetic reconnection takes place when two parallel magnetic fields—as in two magnetic fields touring in reverse instructions—collide, break, and realign. Though it appears innocent, it’s removed from calm.

This phenomenon is seen all over the place within the universe. At residence, you possibly can see them in photo voltaic flares or within the Earth’s magnetosphere. Taichi Morita, affiliate professor at Kyushu College School of Engineering Sciences and the primary writer of the research. “In actual fact, the aurora borealis kind because of charged particles being ejected from magnetic reconnection in Earth’s magnetic discipline.”

Nonetheless, though they happen generally, lots of the mechanisms underlying these phenomena are a thriller. Research are being carried out, corresponding to in[{” attribute=””>NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, where magnetic reconnections are studied in real-time by satellites sent into Earth’s magnetosphere. However, things such as the speed of reconnection or how energy from the magnetic field is converted and distributed to the particles in the

An alternative to sending satellites into space is to use lasers and artificially generate plasma arcs that produce magnetic reconnections. However, without suitable laser strength, the generated plasma is too small and unstable to study the phenomena accurately.

“One facility that has the required power is Osaka University’s Institute for Laser Engineering and their Gekko XII laser. It’s a massive 12-beam, high-powered laser that can generate plasma stable enough for us to study,” explains Morita. “Studying astrophysical phenomena using high-energy lasers is called ‘laser astrophysics experiments,’ and it has been a developing methodology in recent years.”

In their experiments, reported in Physical Review E, the high-power lasers were used to generate two plasma fields with anti-parallel magnetic fields. The team then focused a low-energy laser into the center of the plasma where the magnetic fields would meet and where magnetic reconnection would theoretically occur.

“We are essentially recreating the dynamics and conditions of a solar flare. Nonetheless, by analyzing how the light from that low-energy laser scatters, we can measure all sorts of parameters from plasma temperature, velocity, ion valence, current, and plasma flow velocity,” continues Morita.

One of their key findings was recording the appearance and disappearance of electrical currents where the magnetic fields met, indicating magnetic reconnection. Additionally, they were able to collect data on the acceleration and heating of the plasma.

The team plans on continuing their analysis and hopes that these types of ‘laser astrophysics experiments’ will be more readily used as an alternative or complementary way to investigate astrophysical phenomena.

“This method can be used to study all sorts of things like astrophysical shockwaves, cosmic-ray acceleration, and magnetic turbulence. Many of these phenomena can damage and disrupt electrical devices and the human body,” concludes Morita. “So, if we ever want to be a spacefaring race, we must work to understand these common cosmic events.”

Reference: “Detection of current-sheet and bipolar ion flows in a self-generated antiparallel magnetic field of laser-produced plasmas for magnetic reconnection research” by T. Morita, T. Kojima, S. Matsuo, S. Matsukiyo, S. Isayama, R. Yamazaki, S. J. Tanaka, K. Aihara, Y. Sato, J. Shiota, Y. Pan, K. Tomita, T. Takezaki, Y. Kuramitsu, K. Sakai, S. Egashira, H. Ishihara, O. Kuramoto, Y. Matsumoto, K. Maeda and Y. Sakawa, 10 November 2022, Physical Review E.
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.106.055207

The study was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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