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Published June 2001 | Published
Journal Article Open

Spheromaks, solar prominences, and Alfvén instability of current sheets


Three related efforts underway at Caltech are discussed: experimental studies of spheromak formation, experimental simulation of solar prominences, and Alfvén wave instability of current sheets. Spheromak formation has been studied by using a coaxial magnetized plasma gun to inject helicity-bearing plasma into a very large vacuum chamber. The spheromak is formed without a flux conserver and internal λ profiles have been measured. Spheromak-based technology has been used to make laboratory plasmas having the topology and dynamics of solar prominences. The physics of these structures is closely related to spheromaks (low β, force-free, relaxed state equilibrium) but the boundary conditions and symmetry are different. Like spheromaks, the equilibrium involves a balance between hoop forces, pinch forces, and magnetic tension. It is shown theoretically that if a current sheet becomes sufficiently thin (of the order of the ion skin depth or smaller), it becomes kinetically unstable with respect to the emission of Alfvén waves and it is proposed that this wave emission is an important aspect of the dynamics of collisionless reconnection.

Additional Information

© The Society of Geomagnetism and Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences (SGEPSS); The Seismological Society of Japan; The Volcanological Society of Japan; The Geodetic Society of Japan; The Japanese Society for Planetary Sciences. 2001. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. Received July 26, 2000; Revised January 4, 2001; Accepted February 19, 2001. Supported by the United States Department of Energy.

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August 19, 2023
October 26, 2023