Understanding how highly organized structures are able to form and emerge from the seemingly random motion of particles remains one of the primary goals of science.
The recent, and somewhat surprising, discovery of “self-organized electromagnetic fields in counter-streaming ionized gases (also known as plasmas) will give scientists a new way to explore how order emerges from chaos in the cosmos.”
“We’ve created a model for exploring how electromagnetic fields help organize ionized gas or plasma in astrophysical settings, such as in the plasma flows that emerge from young stars,” said lead author Nathan Kugland, a postdoctoral researcher in the High Energy Density Science Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “These fields help shape the flows, and likely play a supporting role alongside gravity in the formation of solar systems, which can eventually lead to the creation of planets like the Earth.”
“This observation was completely unexpected, since the plasmas move so quickly that they should freely stream past each other,” explained Hye-Sook Park, team leader and staff physicist at LLNL. Park added that “laser-driven plasma experiments can study the microphysics of plasma interaction and structure formation under controlled conditions.”
In some cases, laboratory experiments are the only current way to answer the questions that are posed in the field of astrophysics because of the massive size of the objects involved.
The new research was just published in the online journal, Nature Physics on September 30th.
Image Credit: DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory