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Concept: Magnetohydrodynamics


Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the main driver to transport solar wind into the Earth’s magnetosphere when the magnetopause features a large magnetic shear. However, even when the magnetic shear is too small for spontaneous reconnection, the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability driven by a super-Alfvénic velocity shear is expected to facilitate the transport. Although previous kinetic simulations have demonstrated that the non-linear vortex flows from the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability gives rise to vortex-induced reconnection and resulting plasma transport, the system sizes of these simulations were too small to allow the reconnection to evolve much beyond the electron scale as recently observed by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. Here, based on a large-scale kinetic simulation and its comparison with MMS observations, we show for the first time that ion-scale jets from vortex-induced reconnection rapidly decay through self-generated turbulence, leading to a mass transfer rate nearly one order higher than previous expectations for the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Magnetohydrodynamics, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Sun, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Aurora


The most recent “grand minimum” of solar activity, the Maunder minimum (MM, 1650-1710), is of great interest both for understanding the solar dynamo and providing insight into possible future heliospheric conditions. Here, we use nearly 30 years of output from a data-constrained magnetohydrodynamic model of the solar corona to calibrate heliospheric reconstructions based solely on sunspot observations. Using these empirical relations, we produce the first quantitative estimate of global solar wind variations over the last 400 years. Relative to the modern era, the MM shows a factor 2 reduction in near-Earth heliospheric magnetic field strength and solar wind speed, and up to a factor 4 increase in solar wind Mach number. Thus solar wind energy input into the Earth’s magnetosphere was reduced, resulting in a more Jupiter-like system, in agreement with the dearth of auroral reports from the time. The global heliosphere was both smaller and more symmetric under MM conditions, which has implications for the interpretation of cosmogenic radionuclide data and resulting total solar irradiance estimates during grand minima.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Magnetohydrodynamics, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Sun, Plasma, Solar wind, Sunspot


Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the dominant process by which solar wind plasma enters the magnetosphere. However, for periods of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) reconnection is less likely at the dayside magnetopause, and Kelvin-Helmholtz waves (KHWs) may be important agents for plasma entry and for the excitation of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves. The relative importance of KHWs is controversial because no statistical data on their occurrence frequency exist. Here we survey 7 years of in situ data from the NASA THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macro scale Interactions during Substorms) mission and find that KHWs occur at the magnetopause ∼19% of the time. The rate increases with solar wind speed, Alfven Mach number and number density, but is mostly independent of IMF magnitude. KHWs may thus be more important for plasma transport across the magnetopause than previously thought, and frequently drive magnetospheric ULF waves.

Concepts: Magnetohydrodynamics, Earth, Sun, Jupiter, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Aurora, Magnetic reconnection


Self organization of large-scale structures in nature - either coherent structures like crystals, or incoherent dynamic structures like clouds - is governed by long-range interactions. In many problems, hydrodynamics and electrostatics are the source of such long-range interactions. The tuning of electrostatic interactions has helped to elucidate when coherent crystalline structures or incoherent amorphous structures form in colloidal systems. However, there is little understanding of self organization in situations where both electrostatic and hydrodynamic interactions are present. We present a minimal two-component oil-in-oil model system where we can control the strength and lengthscale of the electrohydrodynamic interactions by tuning the amplitude and frequency of the imposed electric field. As a function of the hydrodynamic lengthscale, we observe a rich phenomenology of exotic structure and dynamics, from incoherent cloud-like structures and chaotic droplet dynamics, to polyhedral droplet phases, to coherent droplet arrays.

Concepts: Electric charge, Fundamental physics concepts, Fluid dynamics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Electrohydrodynamics, Structure, Electrostatics, Electric field


In the lower solar atmosphere, the chromosphere is permeated by jets known as spicules, in which plasma is propelled at speeds of 50 to 150 kilometers per second into the corona. The origin of the spicules is poorly understood, although they are expected to play a role in heating the million-degree corona and are associated with Alfvénic waves that help drive the solar wind. We compare magnetohydrodynamic simulations of spicules with observations from the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph and the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope. Spicules are shown to occur when magnetic tension is amplified and transported upward through interactions between ions and neutrals or ambipolar diffusion. The tension is impulsively released to drive flows, heat plasma (through ambipolar diffusion), and generate Alfvénic waves.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Magnetohydrodynamics, Sun, Plasma, Solar wind, Solar flare, Corona, Plasma physics


Evidence is shown of the capability of non-axisymmetrical conducting structures in the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) to guarantee the passive stabilization of the n = 0 MHD unstable mode. Suitable numerical modeling of the experiments allows a clear interpretation of the phenomenon. This demonstration and the availability of computational tools able to describe the effect of 3D conductors will have a huge impact on the design of future fusion devices, in which the conducting structures closest to plasma will be highly segmented.

Concepts: Mathematics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Chemistry, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Fusion power, Tokamak, ITER


Magnetohydrodynamic turbulence is important in many high-energy astrophysical systems, where instabilities can amplify the local magnetic field over very short timescales. Specifically, the magnetorotational instability and dynamo action have been suggested as a mechanism for the growth of magnetar-strength magnetic fields (of 10(15) gauss and above) and for powering the explosion of a rotating massive star. Such stars are candidate progenitors of type Ic-bl hypernovae, which make up all supernovae that are connected to long γ-ray bursts. The magnetorotational instability has been studied with local high-resolution shearing-box simulations in three dimensions, and with global two-dimensional simulations, but it is not known whether turbulence driven by this instability can result in the creation of a large-scale, ordered and dynamically relevant field. Here we report results from global, three-dimensional, general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic turbulence simulations. We show that hydromagnetic turbulence in rapidly rotating protoneutron stars produces an inverse cascade of energy. We find a large-scale, ordered toroidal field that is consistent with the formation of bipolar magnetorotationally driven outflows. Our results demonstrate that rapidly rotating massive stars are plausible progenitors for both type Ic-bl supernovae and long γ-ray bursts, and provide a viable mechanism for the formation of magnetars. Moreover, our findings suggest that rapidly rotating massive stars might lie behind potentially magnetar-powered superluminous supernovae.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Magnetohydrodynamics, Dynamo theory, Supernova, Dimension, Plasma, Star


Magnetic flux ropes are highly twisted, current-carrying magnetic fields. They are crucial for the instability of plasma involved in solar eruptions, which may lead to adverse space weather effects. Here we present observations of a flaring using the highest resolution chromospheric images from the 1.6-m New Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory, supplemented by a magnetic field extrapolation model. A set of loops initially appear to peel off from an overall inverse S-shaped flux bundle, and then develop into a multi-stranded twisted flux rope, producing a two-ribbon flare. We show evidence that the flux rope is embedded in sheared arcades and becomes unstable following the enhancement of its twists. The subsequent motion of the flux rope is confined due to the strong strapping effect of the overlying field. These results provide a first opportunity to witness the detailed structure and evolution of flux ropes in the low solar atmosphere.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Magnetohydrodynamics, Sun, Magnetism, Magnetic flux, Plasma, Solar wind


Magnetically driven eruptions on the Sun, from stellar-scale coronal mass ejections to small-scale coronal X-ray and extreme-ultraviolet jets, have frequently been observed to involve the ejection of the highly stressed magnetic flux of a filament. Theoretically, these two phenomena have been thought to arise through very different mechanisms: coronal mass ejections from an ideal (non-dissipative) process, whereby the energy release does not require a change in the magnetic topology, as in the kink or torus instability; and coronal jets from a resistive process involving magnetic reconnection. However, it was recently concluded from new observations that all coronal jets are driven by filament ejection, just like large mass ejections. This suggests that the two phenomena have physically identical origin and hence that a single mechanism may be responsible, that is, either mass ejections arise from reconnection, or jets arise from an ideal instability. Here we report simulations of a coronal jet driven by filament ejection, whereby a region of highly sheared magnetic field near the solar surface becomes unstable and erupts. The results show that magnetic reconnection causes the energy release via ‘magnetic breakout’-a positive-feedback mechanism between filament ejection and reconnection. We conclude that if coronal mass ejections and jets are indeed of physically identical origin (although on different spatial scales) then magnetic reconnection (rather than an ideal process) must also underlie mass ejections, and that magnetic breakout is a universal model for solar eruptions.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Magnetohydrodynamics, Sun, Magnetism, Magnetic flux, Solar flare, Corona, Plasma physics


The 11-year solar magnetic cycle shows a high degree of coherence in spite of the turbulent nature of the solar convection zone. It has been found in recent high-resolution magnetohydrodynamics simulations that the maintenance of a large-scale coherent magnetic field is difficult with small viscosity and magnetic diffusivity (≲10 (12) square centimenters per second). We reproduced previous findings that indicate a reduction of the energy in the large-scale magnetic field for lower diffusivities and demonstrate the recovery of the global-scale magnetic field using unprecedentedly high resolution. We found an efficient small-scale dynamo that suppresses small-scale flows, which mimics the properties of large diffusivity. As a result, the global-scale magnetic field is maintained even in the regime of small diffusivities-that is, large Reynolds numbers.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Fluid dynamics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Dynamo theory, Plasma, Reynolds number, Corona