Astrophysical magnetic fields and nonlinear dynamo theory

  • Brandenburg A
  • Subramanian K
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Abstract

The current understanding of astrophysical magnetic fields is reviewed, focusing on their generation and maintenance by turbulence. In the astrophysical context this generation is usually explained by a self-excited dynamo, which involves flows that can amplify a weak 'seed' magnetic field exponentially fast. Particular emphasis is placed on the nonlinear saturation of the dynamo. Analytic and numerical results are discussed both for small scale dynamos, which are completely isotropic, and for large scale dynamos, where some form of parity breaking is crucial. Central to the discussion of large scale dynamos is the so-called alpha effect which explains the generation of a mean field if the turbulence lacks mirror symmetry, i.e. if the flow has kinetic helicity. Large scale dynamos produce small scale helical fields as a waste product that quench the large scale dynamo and hence the alpha seffect. With this in mind, the microscopic theory of the alpha effect is revisited in full detail and recent results for the loss of helical magnetic fields are reviewed. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Dynamos
  • Magnetohydrodynamics
  • Mean field theory
  • Turbulence

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