DOE News
    Doe Science news source
    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2020-06-02 16:15:26
    • Article ID: 732571

    New research deepens understanding of Earth’s interaction with the solar wind

    • Credit: Elle Starkman / PPPL Office of Communications

      PPPL physicist Derek Schaeffer in front of an image of a jet airplane creating an atmospheric shock wave

    As the Earth orbits the sun, it plows through a stream of fast-moving particles that can interfere with satellites and global positioning systems. Now, a team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University has reproduced a process that occurs in space to deepen understanding of what happens when the Earth encounters this solar wind. 

    The team used computer simulations to model the movement of a jet of plasma, the charged state of matter composed of electrons and atomic nuclei that makes up all the stars in the sky, including our sun. Many cosmic events can produce plasma jets, from relatively small star burps to gigantic stellar explosions known as supernovae. When fast-moving plasma jets pass through the slower plasma that exists in the void of space, it creates what is known as a collision-less shock wave.

    These shocks also occur as Earth moves through the solar wind and can influence how the wind swirls into and around Earth’s magnetosphere, the protective magnetic shield that extends into space. Understanding plasma shock waves could help scientists to forecast the space weather that develops when the solar wind swirls into the magnetosphere and enable the researchers to protect satellites that allow people to communicate across the globe.

    The simulations revealed several telltale signs indicating when a shock is forming, including the shock’s features, the three stages of the shock’s formation, and phenomena that could be mistaken for a shock. “By being able to distinguish a shock from other phenomena, scientists can feel confident that what they are seeing in an experiment is what they want to study in space,” said Derek Schaeffer, an associate research scholar in the Princeton University Department of Astrophysics who led the PPPL research team. The findings were reported in a paper published in Physics of Plasmas that followed up on previous research reported here and here.

    The plasma shocks that occur in space, like those created by Earth traveling against the solar wind, resemble the shock waves created in Earth’s atmosphere by supersonic jet aircraft. In both occurrences, fast-moving material encounters slow or stationary material and must swiftly change its speed, creating an area of swirls and eddies and turbulence.

    But in space, the interactions between fast and slow plasma particles occur without the particles touching one another. “Something else must be driving this shock formation, like the plasma particles electrically attracting or repelling each other,” Schaeffer said. “In any case, the mechanism is not fully understood.”

    To increase their understanding, physicists conduct plasma experiments in laboratories to monitor conditions closely and measure them precisely. In contrast, measurements taken by spacecraft cannot be easily repeated and sample only a small region of plasma. Computer simulations then help the physicists interpret their laboratory data. 

    Today, most laboratory plasma shocks are formed using a mechanism known as a plasma piston. To create the piston, scientists shine a laser on a small target. The laser causes small amounts of the target’s surface to heat up, become a plasma, and move outward through a surrounding, slower-moving plasma.

    Schaeffer and colleagues produced their simulation by modeling this process. “Think of a boulder in the middle of fast-moving stream,” Schaeffer said. “The water will come right up to the front of the boulder, but not quite reach it. The transition area between quick motion and zero [standing] motion is the shock.”

    The simulated results will help physicists distinguish an astrophysical plasma shock wave from other conditions that arise in laboratory experiments. “During laser plasma experiments, you might observe lots of heating and compression and think they are signs of a shock,” Schaeffer said. “But we don’t know enough about the beginning stages of a shock to know from theory alone. For these kinds of laser experiments, we have to figure out how to tell the difference between a shock and just the expansion of the laser-driven plasma.”

    In the future, the researchers aim to make the simulations more realistic by adding more detail and making the plasma density and temperature less uniform. They would also like to run experiments to determine whether the phenomena predicted by the simulations can in fact occur in a physical apparatus. “We’d like to put the ideas we talk about in the paper to the test,” says Schaeffer.

    Support for this research came from the DOE Office of Science and the National Atmospheric and Space Administration. Simulations were performed on the Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a user facility at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

    PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science

    X
    X
    X
    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Scientists Successfully Demonstrate a New Experiment in the Search for Theorized 'Neutrinoless' Process

    Scientists Successfully Demonstrate a New Experiment in the Search for Theorized 'Neutrinoless' Process

    Nuclear physicists affiliated with Berkeley Lab played a leading role in analyzing data for a demonstration experiment in France that has achieved record precision for a specialized detector material.

    Argonne soil carbon research reduces uncertainty in predicting climate change impacts

    Argonne soil carbon research reduces uncertainty in predicting climate change impacts

    DOE and USDA researchers use new global models to study how environmental controllers affect soil organic carbon, changes in which can alter atmospheric carbon concentrations and affect climate. Predictions could benefit industry mitigation plans.

    Learning more about particle collisions with machine learning

    Learning more about particle collisions with machine learning

    A team of Argonne scientists has devised a machine learning algorithm that calculates, with low computational time, how the ATLAS detector in the Large Hadron Collider would respond to the ten times more data expected with a planned upgrade in 2027.

    New cathode coating extends lithium-ion battery life, boosts safety

    New cathode coating extends lithium-ion battery life, boosts safety

    The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, in collaboration with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has developed a new particle-level cathode coating for lithium ion batteries meant to increase their life and safety.

    Scientists Dive Deep Into Hidden World of Quantum States

    Scientists Dive Deep Into Hidden World of Quantum States

    A research team led by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a technique that could lead to new electronic materials that surpass the limitations imposed by Moore's Law.

    Precise Measurement of Pions Confirms Understanding 
of Fundamental Symmetry

    Precise Measurement of Pions Confirms Understanding of Fundamental Symmetry

    Nuclear physicists have announced the most precise measurement yet of the ultra-short lifetime of the neutral pion. The result is an important validation of our understanding of the theory of quantum chromodynamics, which describes the makeup of ordinary matter. The research, carried out at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, was recently published in the journal Science.

    Story Tips: Predicting fire risk, solid state stability check and images in a flash

    Story Tips: Predicting fire risk, solid state stability check and images in a flash

    ORNL Story Tips: Predicting fire risk, solid state stability check and images in a flash

    Summit Helps Predict Molecular Breakups

    Summit Helps Predict Molecular Breakups

    A team used the Summit supercomputer to simulate transition metal systems--such as copper bound to molecules of nitrogen, dihydrogen, or water--and correctly predicted the amount of energy required to break apart dozens of molecular systems, paving the way for a greater understanding of these materials.

    Carbon-loving materials designed to reduce industrial emissions

    Carbon-loving materials designed to reduce industrial emissions

    Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are advancing gas membrane materials to expand practical technology options for reducing industrial carbon emissions.

    Science Snapshots July 2020

    Science Snapshots July 2020

    Berkeley Lab Science Snapshots July 2020


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Fundamental Exploration Into Future Clean Energy Technologies Receives DOE Support

    Fundamental Exploration Into Future Clean Energy Technologies Receives DOE Support

    The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded $65 million in grants to support research that will advance safe, reliable, and clean nuclear energy. Among those projects are two led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which received a combined total of $1.2 million.

    Argonne to explore how digital twins may transform nuclear energy with $8 million from ARPA-E's GEMINA program

    Argonne to explore how digital twins may transform nuclear energy with $8 million from ARPA-E's GEMINA program

    ARPA-E's GEMINA funding will allow Argonne's nuclear scientists to partner with industry and develop tools for the advanced reactors of tomorrow.

    Brookhaven and Forge Nano to Mature Noble Gas-Trapping Technology

    Brookhaven and Forge Nano to Mature Noble Gas-Trapping Technology

    Through DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund, the national lab-startup team will develop "nanocages" for nuclear applications.

    Chicago Quantum Exchange welcomes seven new partners in tech, computing and finance, to advance research and training

    Chicago Quantum Exchange welcomes seven new partners in tech, computing and finance, to advance research and training

    The Chicago-based research hub expands to include 13 total industry leaders in tech, computing, finance.

    EIC Center at Jefferson Lab Announces Six New Research Awards

    EIC Center at Jefferson Lab Announces Six New Research Awards

    The Electron-Ion Collider Center at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (EIC Center at Jefferson Lab) has announced the winners of six international fellowships. The fellows will pursue research over the next year related to advancing the science program of the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a one-of-a-kind nuclear physics research facility to be built over the next decade at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, in partnership with Jefferson Lab.

    Department of Energy awards $3.15 million to Argonne to support collaborations with industry

    Department of Energy awards $3.15 million to Argonne to support collaborations with industry

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $33 million in funding for 82 projects aimed at advancing commercialization of promising energy technologies and strengthening partnerships between DOE's National Laboratories and private-sector companies.

    Analyzing Matter's Building Blocks

    Analyzing Matter's Building Blocks

    Nobuo Sato is working to put the know in femto. He's just been awarded a five-year, multimillion dollar research grant by the Department of Energy to develop a "FemtoAnalyzer" that will help nuclear physicists image the three-dimensional internal structure of protons and neutrons. Now, Sato is among 76 scientists nationwide who have been awarded a grant through the DOE Office of Science's Early Career Research Program to pursue their research.

    Particle Physicist Takes the Lead on Groundbreaking Electron Measurement

    Particle Physicist Takes the Lead on Groundbreaking Electron Measurement

    James "Jim" Fast has joined Jefferson Lab as the MOLLER Project Manager. MOLLER is the "Measurement of a Lepton-Lepton Electroweak Reaction" experiment that will measure the weak charge of the electron.

    Six Argonne researchers receive DOE Early Career Research Program awards

    Six Argonne researchers receive DOE Early Career Research Program awards

    Argonne scientists Michael Bishof, Maria Chan, Marco Govini, Alessandro Lovato, Bogdan Nicolae and Stefan Wild have received funding for their research as part of DOE's Early Career Research Program.

    Three Fermilab scientists receive DOE Early Career Research Awards

    Three Fermilab scientists receive DOE Early Career Research Awards

    The Department of Energy's Office of Science has selected three Fermilab scientists to receive the 2020 DOE Early Career Research Award, now in its 11th year. The prestigious award is designed to bolster the nation's scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early years, when many scientists do their most formative work.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


    Spotlight

    Graduate student at PPPL Ian Ochs wins top Princeton University fellowship
    Friday April 17, 2020, 05:25 PM

    Graduate student at PPPL Ian Ochs wins top Princeton University fellowship

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Barbara Garcia: A first-generation college student spends summer doing research at PPPL
    Tuesday September 24, 2019, 04:05 PM

    Barbara Garcia: A first-generation college student spends summer doing research at PPPL

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Argonne organization's scholarship fund blazes STEM pathway
    Tuesday September 17, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Argonne organization's scholarship fund blazes STEM pathway

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab, Suffolk Girl Scouts Launch Patch Program
    Friday September 13, 2019, 11:30 AM

    Brookhaven Lab, Suffolk Girl Scouts Launch Patch Program

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    From an acoustic levitator to a
    Thursday September 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

    From an acoustic levitator to a "Neutron Bloodhound" robot, hands-on research inspires PPPL's summer interns

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab Celebrates the Bright Future of its 2019 Interns
    Friday August 30, 2019, 10:00 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Celebrates the Bright Future of its 2019 Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    PPPL apprenticeship program offers young people chance to earn while they learn high-tech careers
    Thursday August 01, 2019, 12:05 PM

    PPPL apprenticeship program offers young people chance to earn while they learn high-tech careers

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Creating a diverse pipeline
    Friday July 19, 2019, 01:05 PM

    Creating a diverse pipeline

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab
    Monday July 08, 2019, 03:00 PM

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

    Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline
    Monday May 20, 2019, 12:05 PM

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula
    Monday May 13, 2019, 11:05 AM

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)
    Monday April 29, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories
    Friday April 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time
    Thursday March 28, 2019, 03:05 PM

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers
    Tuesday March 12, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition
    Wednesday February 13, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution
    Thursday January 24, 2019, 01:05 PM

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science
    Friday January 18, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chasing a supernova
    Friday January 18, 2019, 04:05 PM

    Chasing a supernova

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline
    Tuesday January 08, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices
    Thursday October 11, 2018, 04:00 PM

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Innovating Our Energy Future
    Wednesday October 03, 2018, 07:05 PM

    Innovating Our Energy Future

    Oregon State University, College of Engineering

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab
    Tuesday October 02, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Friday September 21, 2018, 01:05 PM

    "Model" students enjoy Argonne campus life

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce
    Thursday September 06, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    The Gridlock State
    Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

    The Gridlock State

    California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson
    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School
    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Changing How Buildings Are Made
    Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Changing How Buildings Are Made

    Washington University in St. Louis

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019
    Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

    California State University, Monterey Bay

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology
    Friday July 20, 2018, 03:00 PM

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor
    Thursday July 19, 2018, 05:00 PM

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'
    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne welcomes <em>The Martian</em> author Andy Weir
    Friday June 29, 2018, 06:05 PM

    Argonne welcomes The Martian author Andy Weir

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy
    Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy

    Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research
    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science
    Thursday June 07, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science
    Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)
    Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds
    Thursday April 12, 2018, 07:05 PM

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond
    Wednesday March 14, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week
    Thursday February 15, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business





    Showing results

    0-4 Of 2215