Numerical simulation of an experimental analogue of a planetary magnetosphere

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Recent improvements to the Omega Laser Facility's magneto-inertial fusion electrical discharge system (MIFEDS) have made it possible to generate strong enough magnetic fields in the laboratory to begin to address the physics of magnetized astrophysical flows. Here, we adapt the MHD code AstroBEAR to create 2D numerical models of an experimental analogue of a planetary magnetosphere. We track the secular evolution of the magnetosphere analogue and we show that the magnetospheric components such as the magnetopause, magnetosheath, and bow shock, should all be observable in experimental optical band thermal bremsstrahlung emissivity maps, assuming equilibrium charge state distributions of the plasma. When the magnetosphere analogue nears the steady state, the mid-plane altitude of the magnetopause from the wire surface scales as the one-half power of the ratio of the magnetic pressure at the surface of the free wire to the ram pressure of an unobstructed wind; the mid-plane thickness of the magnetosheath is directly related to the radius of the magnetopause. This behavior conforms to Chapman and Ferraro's theory of planetary magnetospheres. Although the radial dependence of the magnetic field strength differs between the case of a current-carrying wire and a typical planetary object, the major morphological features that develop when a supersonic flow passes either system are identical. Hence, this experimental concept is an attractive one for studying the dynamics of planetary magnetospheres in a controlled environment.




Liao, A. S., Li, S., Hartigan, P., Graham, P., Fiksel, G., Frank, A., … Kuranz, C. (2015). Numerical simulation of an experimental analogue of a planetary magnetosphere. High Energy Density Physics, 17, 38–41.

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