A heated electron emitting cathode (the bright spot at center) lights up the interior of a three-meter cast aluminum sphere used to contain plasmas, in an effort to create the kind of dynamo observed at the center of the Earth, sun and many other types of stars. Credit: Cary Forest laboratory
For scientists trying to understand the subtleties of cosmic dynamos—the magnetic field-inducing phenomena at the hearts of planets, stars and galaxies—the physics, for the most part, must be done at vast distances. Soon, however, instead of probing dynamos on distant stars or at the inaccessible core of the Earth, scientists may be able to put dynamos under the proverbial microscope as physicists at UW–Madison are on the verge of creating a plasma dynamo in the lab. The ability to create dynamos that accurately mimic those that occur in nature promises to reveal the underlying mysteries of cosmic dynamos and how they generate huge, powerful magnetic fields.
“Now, we study these astrophysical dynamos by observing them and through computer modeling based on imperfect theory,” explains Cary Forest, a physics professor leading the new experimental effort. “Physics, ultimately, is an experimental science, and we need devices where we can turn knobs to test theories.” Via: 2012-10-scientists-effort-cosmic-dynamo-lab