CASPER Seminar - Plasmas in Space: From the Sun to the Orbit of the Earth
Dr. Steven Spangler, University of Iowa


DateApril 12, 2013Time1:30 - 2:30 pm
LocationBSB - E.231
Description Plasmas are gases in which a portion of the atoms or molecules are ionized, and thus consist of ions and electrons as well as neutral particles. Plasmas display a richer variety of phenomena than neutral gases. Plasma physics is of importance to astronomy and astrophysics because many astronomical objects are made of plasma. In this talk, I will describe our understanding of the plasma state of the solar atmosphere and interplanetary space (also referred to as the ``solar wind'') between the Sun and the Earth. The solar atmosphere and interplanetary space are of interest for two reasons. First, they are important astronomical objects or media in their own right. Second, the Sun and interplanetary medium can be measured with a level of detail and precision unattainable for other astronomical objects. In the case of the interplanetary medium, we have the opportunity to make direct ``ground truth'' measurements of plasma parameters such as density, temperature, and all three components of the magnetic field. These more detailed measurements provide a clear view of physical processes which also occur elsewhere in astronomy. I will emphasize those aspects of solar and interplanetary physics which I find most intriguing, and potentially most important in a broader astronomical and astrophysical context. These topics include remote magnetometry of the solar corona (the highest level in the solar atmosphere), the attempt to discover the mechanisms responsible for heating the solar corona to temperatures as high as 2 million Kelvin, and the properties of turbulence in the solar atmosphere and interplanetary space. I will conclude by showing how knowledge gained through study of the Sun and interplanetary medium can contribute to our understanding of much more remote astronomical objects in the Milky Way galaxy and beyond.
PublisherCASPER
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