Astrophysical plasmas


Astrophysical plasmas are plasmas that occur in space. This includes the plasma that makes up stars. The Sun is constantly emitting a plasma known as the solar wind, which can affect satellites in orbit around the Earth and create aurora. Plasma is also found in interstellar space.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research | | open

    Alfvén waves are fundamental plasma modes that provide a mechanism for the transfer of energy between particles and fields. Here the authors confirm experimentally the conservative energy exchange between Alfvén wave fields and plasma particles via high-resolution MMS observations of Earth’s magnetosphere.

    • Daniel J. Gershman
    • , Adolfo F-Viñas
    • , John C. Dorelli
    • , Scott A. Boardsen
    • , Levon A. Avanov
    • , Paul M. Bellan
    • , Steven J. Schwartz
    • , Benoit Lavraud
    • , Victoria N. Coffey
    • , Michael O. Chandler
    • , Yoshifumi Saito
    • , William R. Paterson
    • , Stephen A. Fuselier
    • , Robert E. Ergun
    • , Robert J. Strangeway
    • , Christopher T. Russell
    • , Barbara L. Giles
    • , Craig J. Pollock
    • , Roy B. Torbert
    •  & James L. Burch
  • Research |

    Larmor coupling is a collisionless momentum exchange mechanism believed to occur in various astrophysical and space-plasma environments. The phenomenon is now observed in a laboratory experiment.

    • A. S. Bondarenko
    • , D. B. Schaeffer
    • , E. T. Everson
    • , S. E. Clark
    • , B. R. Lee
    • , C. G. Constantin
    • , S. Vincena
    • , B. Van Compernolle
    • , S. K. P. Tripathi
    • , D. Winske
    •  & C. Niemann
  • Research | | open

    Back reaction of coronal magnetic fields on the solar surface may help to understand the coronal reconfiguration during a solar flare. Here the authors report observation of reversal of the rotation of a sunspot during a X1.6 flare with data from HMI.

    • Yi Bi
    • , Yunchun Jiang
    • , Jiayan Yang
    • , Junchao Hong
    • , Haidong Li
    • , Bo Yang
    •  & Zhe Xu
  • Research |

    Processes in (space) plasmas occur on different levels — fluid, ion and electron. Now, from satellite data and simulations, an energy-transfer mechanism between the fluid and ion scales is reported: fluid velocity shear is converted into ion heating.

    • T. W. Moore
    • , K. Nykyri
    •  & A. P. Dimmock
    Nature Physics 12, 1164–1169
  • Research |

    Substorms in the Earth’s magnetosphere lead to bright aurorae, releasing energy into the surrounding ionosphere. Ground- and space-based observations now reveal how that energy is dissipated and controlled by strong electric currents.

    • E. V. Panov
    • , W. Baumjohann
    • , R. A. Wolf
    • , R. Nakamura
    • , V. Angelopoulos
    • , J. M. Weygand
    •  & M. V. Kubyshkina
    Nature Physics 12, 1158–1163

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    Direct satellite observations of energy transfer between large and small space plasma scales contribute to our understanding of how matter in the Universe gets hot.

    • Alessandro Retinò
    Nature Physics 12, 1092–1093
  • Comments and Opinion |

    Fusion research is driven by the applied goal of energy production from fusion reactions. There is, however, a wealth of fundamental physics to be discovered and studied along the way. This Commentary discusses selected developments in diagnostics and present-day research topics in high-temperature plasma physics.

    • Alexander V. Melnikov
    Nature Physics 12, 386–390
  • News and Views |

    The successful formation of self-generated magnetic fields in the lab using large-scale, high-power lasers opens the door to a better understanding of some of the most extreme astrophysical processes taking place in the Universe.

    • Francisco Suzuki-Vidal
    Nature Physics 11, 98–99