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Detection of a Taylor-like Plasma Relaxation Process in the Sun View all abstracts by submitter

Richard Canfield   Submitted: 2003-08-26 17:05

The relaxation dynamics of a magnetized plasma system is a subject of fundamental importance in magnetohydrodynamics - with applications ranging from laboratory plasma devices like the toroidal field pinch and spheromaks to astrophysical plasmas, stellar flaring activity and coronal heating. Taylor in 1974 proposed that the magnetic field in a plasma, subject to certain constraints, relaxes to a minimum energy state such that the final magnetic field configuration is a constant α (linear) force-free field - where α is a quantity describing the twist in magnetic field lines. While Taylor's theory was remarkably successful in explaining some intriguing results from laboratory plasma experiments, a clear signature of this mechanism in astrophysical plasmas remained undetected. Here we report observational detection of a relaxation process, similar to what Taylor envisaged, in the magnetic fields of flare-productive solar active regions. The implications of this result for magnetic reconnection and the coronal heating problem are discussed.

Authors: Nandy, D., Hahn, M., Canfield, R.C., and Longcope, D.W.

Publication Status: ApJ 597, 73 (2003)
Last Modified: 2003-11-03 10:53
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