Turbulence and Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Astrophysical Plasmas

Turbulence and Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Astrophysical Plasmas

Physics Colloquium


March 6, 2017 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm


Marcus Nano Rm.




Space Science Institute, Boulder/Atlanta

Fundamental processes governing dynamics of hot magnetized plasmas determine behavior of many systems in the Universe across a wide range of scales.Notable examples include laboratory fusion experiments, the magnetospheres of Earth and of other planets, stellar atmospheres, astrophysical jets, and accretion disks.

In this talk I will review recent work on two inherently linked phenomena that are thought to be of crucial importance to dynamics of magnetized plasmas: magnetic reconnection and plasma turbulence. Plasma turbulence is a ubiquitous phenomenon often representing the dominant mechanism of energy and particle transport. Magnetic reconnection, a process of fast topological rearrangement of magnetic field, is one of the most important processes associated with energy storage and release. It is thought to be behind such spectacular events as coronal mass ejections and magnetospheric storms.

Focusing on the issues pertinent to Space Weather, i.e. dynamics of the Earth’s space environment and of the Earth-Sun connection, I will discuss how the magnetic reconnection and plasma turbulence are linked together, why understanding of this link requires incorporating of microscopic kinetic processes into large-scale models, and why all of these issues represent a fascinating theoretical problem with far-reaching practical implications. Computer simulations taking advantage of the largest available supercomputers underpin most of the presented work and I will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities in both modeling and data analysis arising with the push towards exascale computing.