Complex astrophysical experiments relating to jets, solar loops, and water ice dusty plasma
Recent results of three astrophysically relevant experiments at Caltech are summarized. In the first experiment magnetohydrodynamically driven plasma jets simulate astrophysical jets that undergo a kink instability. Lateral acceleration of the kinking jet spawns a Rayleigh–Taylor instability, which in turn spawns a magnetic reconnection. Particle heating and a burst of waves are observed in association with the reconnection. The second experiment uses a slightly different setup to produce an expanding arched plasma loop which is similar to a solar corona loop. It is shown that the plasma in this loop results from jets originating from the electrodes. The possibility of a transition from slow to fast expansion as a result of the expanding loop breaking free of an externally imposed strapping magnetic field is investigated. The third and completely different experiment creates a weakly ionized plasma with liquid nitrogen cooled electrodes. Water vapour injected into this plasma forms water ice grains that in general are ellipsoidal and not spheroidal. The water ice grains can become quite long (up to several hundred microns) and self-organize so that they are evenly spaced and vertically aligned.
© 2015 Cambridge University Press. Received April 17 2015; Revised May 08 2015; Accepted May 12 2015.