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Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Speaker: James Drake, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Title: Magnetic Reconnection and Particle Acceleration in Space and Astrophysical Systems
Time: 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (US and Canada) Talk goes from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Attendees can sign in any time after 12:30 p.m.
Abstract: Magnetic reconnection is responsible for the explosive release of magnetic energy in space and astrophysical systems. Such impulsive energy release spans a wide variety environments throughout the universe, including solar and stellar flares, and flares in pulsar nebulae, jets in active galactic nuclei and other astrophysical systems. What controls the dynamics of reconnection and the mechanisms responsible for efficient particle acceleration are therefore topics of great scientific interest, especially in light of the goal to interpret simultaneous observations of gravitational waves and electromagnetic signatures in astrophysical events. Observations reveal that a large fraction of released magnetic energy goes into energetic particles, whose distributions take the form of powerlaws that extend many decades in energy. Theoretical ideas about the mechanism that drives these energetic particle during reconnection have changed dramatically over the past decade. Early ideas that parallel electric fields were the dominate driver have been displace by a new picture in which the growth and merging of large numbers of magnetic flux ropes both releases magnetic energy and efficiently drives energy gain of particles. New computational and analytic models are for the first time reproducing the extended powerlaws seen in observations. The talk will emphasize basic physical concepts that reveal both the physics of magnetic reconnection and the mechanisms for particle energy gain.
Biography: Professor James Drake is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, College Park. James Drake's research focus is on the theory and modeling of plasmas with applications to laboratory, space and astrophysical systems. He has made important contributions to the understanding of laser-plasma interactions, plasma turbulence and magnetic reconnection. On the topic of magnetic reconnection he and his students and colleagues have made key discoveries on the mechanisms that control the rate of reconnection, its explosive onset and the production of energetic particles. Much of this work involves collaborations with scientists with access to satellite data where he and his colleagues have tested theoretical ideas and offered interpretations of space observations. He is a co-investigator on NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) and Parker Solar Probe Missions. He is currently the Director of the Joint Space Science Institute (JSI) and the NASA DRIVE Science Center on Solar Flare Energy Release (SolFER), a collaboration involving 10 US institutions and scientists from around the world. He is a fellow of the APS and the AGU and was awarded the APS 2010 James Clerk Maxwell Prize in Plasma Physics.
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