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Anthony L. Perratt - The Legacy of Birkeland's Plasma Torch

Anthony L. Perratt - The Legacy of Birkeland's Plasma Torch

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Published by Boris Petrovic
Birkeland currents

Magnetic disturbances are usually observed during displays in auroral zones. These are localised and fade towards the equator, suggesting that currents flow nearby. Currents, of course, require closed circuits. Birkeland proposed that these currents flowed from space at one end of an auroral arc and returned to space at the other, flowing parallel to the ground when in proximity with The Earth.

Birkeland first made this proposal after returning from an expedition to an auroral zone in 1903, and it was confirmed by the US Naval satellite, Triad, in 1973. Its magnetometer detected two large sheets of electric current, down on the morning side of the auroral zone, and up on the evening side, as expected. Each sheet typically carries a million amperes or more.

Further: Enormous Birkeland currents connecting Jupiter and its moon Io were recorded by the Voyager spacecraft in 1979.

In 1984 Farhad Yusef-Azdeh, Don Chance, and Mark Morris discovered Birkeland currents on a galactic scale. Working with the Very Large Array radio telescope, they found an arc of radio emission some 120 light-years long near the centre of the Milky Way! The structure is made up of narrow filaments typically 3 light-years wide and running the full length of the arc. The strength of the associated magnetic field is 100 times greater than previously thought possible on such a large scale, but the field is nearly identical in geometry and strength to computer simulations of galaxy formation.

Birkeland currents

Magnetic disturbances are usually observed during displays in auroral zones. These are localised and fade towards the equator, suggesting that currents flow nearby. Currents, of course, require closed circuits. Birkeland proposed that these currents flowed from space at one end of an auroral arc and returned to space at the other, flowing parallel to the ground when in proximity with The Earth.

Birkeland first made this proposal after returning from an expedition to an auroral zone in 1903, and it was confirmed by the US Naval satellite, Triad, in 1973. Its magnetometer detected two large sheets of electric current, down on the morning side of the auroral zone, and up on the evening side, as expected. Each sheet typically carries a million amperes or more.

Further: Enormous Birkeland currents connecting Jupiter and its moon Io were recorded by the Voyager spacecraft in 1979.

In 1984 Farhad Yusef-Azdeh, Don Chance, and Mark Morris discovered Birkeland currents on a galactic scale. Working with the Very Large Array radio telescope, they found an arc of radio emission some 120 light-years long near the centre of the Milky Way! The structure is made up of narrow filaments typically 3 light-years wide and running the full length of the arc. The strength of the associated magnetic field is 100 times greater than previously thought possible on such a large scale, but the field is nearly identical in geometry and strength to computer simulations of galaxy formation.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Boris Petrovic on Apr 11, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/11/2014

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