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Waves in a Plasma Ocean: Wave-Particle Interactions Throughout the Solar System

All University
Event type
Department of Physics

Presented by Associate Professor Allison Jaynes, University of Iowa

Allison Jaynes, the American Physical Society's Katherine E. Weimer Award 2023 winner, talks about the plasma ocean of our solar system, from "killer electrons" to the furthest reaches of space exploration.


All planetary and smaller bodies in our solar system are embedded in a sea of plasma, like boulders in a terrestrial ocean. Their surfaces or magnetic fields run into this ocean of space plasma, generated primarily by our Sun, and create a whole range fascinating effects as a result.

Waves in interplanetary space and waves produced by solar wind-planetary interactions both initiate wave-particle interactions across a variety of scale sizes. These wave-particle interactions can fuel many phenomena: from the ‘killer electrons’ in the Van Allen radiation belts that affect spacecraft and Earth’s atmosphere to the echoes of distant magnetic structures we can observe at the edge of our solar system and beyond. This process can cause the local aurora above our heads. It also plays a role in the giant particle accelerator that is Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

In this talk, I will present recent significant insights we’ve gained about wave-particle interactions across our solar system and illustrate how this fundamental plasma physics process underlies a vast scope of the space environment: from different worlds to the furthest reaches of our space exploration. This talk will be accessible to all backgrounds, knowledge of Physics not required.



Annika Seppala


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