New Research Reveals How Energy Dissipates Outside Earth’s Magnetic Field

Earth’s magnetic field provides an invisible but crucial barrier that protects Earth from the solar wind—a stream of charged particles launched from the sun’s outer layers. The protective properties of the magnetic field can fail due to a process known as magnetic reconnection, which occurs when two opposing magnetic field lines break and reconnect with each other, dissipating massive amounts of energy and accelerating particles that threaten air traffic and satellite communication systems.

In this visualization, as the supersonic solar wind (yellow haze) flows around the Earth's magnetic field (blue wavy lines), it forms a highly turbulent boundary layer called the “magnetosheath” (yellow swirling area). A new research paper describes observations of small-scale magnetic reconnection within the magnetosheath, revealing important clues about heating in the sun's outer layers and elsewhere in the universe. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith (Click image to download hi-res version.)
In this visualization, as the supersonic solar wind (yellow haze) flows around the Earth's magnetic field (blue wavy lines), it forms a highly turbulent boundary layer called the “magnetosheath” (yellow swirling area). A new research paper describes observations of small-scale magnetic reconnection within the magnetosheath, revealing important clues about heating in the sun's outer layers and elsewhere in the universe. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith (Click image to download hi-res version.)

Just outside of Earth’s magnetic field, the solar wind’s onslaught of electrons and ionized gases creates a turbulent maelstrom of magnetic energy known as the magnetosheath. While magnetic reconnection has been well documented closer to Earth, physicists have sought to determine whether reconnection also happens in this turbulent zone.

A new research paper co-authored by University of Maryland Physics Professor James Drake suggests that the answer to this question is yes. The observation

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Eliot Fenton Recognized as a Maryland ‘Undergraduate Researcher of the Year’

Eliot Fenton, UMD physics major, was among those recognized as a 2018 Maryland ‘Undergraduate Researcher of the Year.’ This award is eligible for exemplary seniors who have been nominated by their faculty advisors.  Fenton earned this award for his wide-ranging experimental physics research accomplishments.

From 2015-2017 Fenton worked on optical nanofibers with JQI Fellow and UMD Physics Professor Luis Orozco. Recently, Fenton along with fellow undergraduate researcher Adnan Khan (now a graduate student at University of Washington), together with colleagues, published a study of how light interacts with an optical nanofiber’s mechanical movements. Last year, Fenton co-authored a paper that detailed precise measurements of an optical nanofiber.

orozco solano fentonEliot Fenton (right) with research advisor Luis Orozco (center) and former UMD graduate student Pablo Solano (left). (Photo courtesy of L. Orozco)

In 2017 he began doing research with JQI Fellow and NIST scientist Ian Spielman and his team. In this group, Fenton has been working on the construction of a new ultracold atomic physics experiment in the Physical Sciences Complex.

In addition to UMD research activities, Fenton completed summer research internships at both the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark and CERN.

Fenton, who will graduate in May 2018, is planning to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he will study ultracold molecules with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Kang-Kuen Ni.

REFERENCE ARTICLES

“Spin-optomechanical coupling between light and a nanofiber torsional mode,” Eliot F. Fenton, Adnan Khan, Pablo Solano, Luis A. Orozco, and Fredrik K. Fatemi, Optics Letters (2018) https://doi.org/10.1364/OL.43.001534

"Modal interference in optical nanofibers for sub-Angstrom radius sensitivity," F. K. Fatemi, J. E. Hoffman, P. Solano, E. T. Fenton, G. Beadie, S. L. Rolston, and L. A. Orozco, Optica (2017). https://doi.org/10.1364/OPTICA.4.000157

Richard F. Ellis (1944-2018)

Professor Emeritus Richard F. Ellis died on Sunday, May 6.  He was 73.

Professor Ellis received his B.A. in physics at Cornell University in 1966 and his Ph.D. in plasma physics at Princeton in 1971.  He served on the faculty at Dartmouth and also held appointments at Los Alamos National Lab, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before joining UMD Physics in 1979.  He was also an early and instrumental member of IREAP.

Ellis was a plasma experimentalist with two primary research efforts. On campus, he directed the Maryland Centrifugal Experiment (MCX), an innovative effort funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to contain hot plasma for the goal of realizing energy from controlled fusion. The experiment evaluated this novel concept for its potential to achieve fusion energy and to explore basic plasma physics questions such as whether sheared flows can suppress fluid turbulence. He also directed efforts at General Atomics Technologies (GA) in San Diego on an Electron Cyclotron Emission (ECE) diagnostic to study the distribution of electron temperature on the DIII-D “tokamak” fusion device. 

A devoted educator, Ellis served as Assistant and Associate Dean of the College for several years and as Associate Chair of the Physics Department for Graduate Education (1994-99) and Undergraduate Education (2010-12).  He served several years in the campus senate and as president of the UMD chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  

He received the Department’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1981-82 and its Continued Excellence in Teaching Award in 1982-83. He was also nominated for the Parents’ Association 2001 Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award.  He was a resident of College Park and enjoyed attending Maryland sporting events.

Professor Ellis, who retired in 2016, is survived by his wife Adele, his daughter and two grandchildren. 

 

Three Graduate Students Recognized by the Graduate School as Outstanding Graduate Assistants

Please join us in congratulating Leonard Campanello, Minh Tran and Batoul Banihashemi, who were awarded the Graduate School's 2018 Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award. The Graduate School established this award to recognize and honor the outstanding contributions that Graduate Assistants provide to students, faculty, departments, administrative units, and the University as a whole. The award conveys the honor of being named among the top 2% of campus Graduate Assistants in a given year.

 

LennyLeonardo CampanelloMinhTran 10062016 7853Minh TranPhoto BatoulBatoul Banihashemi