Publications associated with Laser Fusion and Extreme Field Science

Scaled laboratory experiments explain the kink behaviour of the Crab Nebula jet

Nature Communications Nature Publishing Group (2016)

CK Li, P Tzeferacos, D Lamb, G Gregori, PA Norreys, MJ Rosenberg, RK Follett, DH Froula, M Koenig, FH Seguin, JA Frenje, HG Rinderknecht, H Sio, AB Zylstra, RD Petrasso, PA Amendt, HS Park, BA Remington, SX Hu, TC Sangster, P Hartigan, RP Drake, CC Kuranz, SV Lebedev, NC Woolsey

The remarkable discovery by the Chandra X-ray observatory that the Crab nebula's jet periodically changes direction provides a challenge to our understanding of astrophysical jet dynamics. It has been suggested that this phenomenon may be the consequence of magnetic fields and magnetohydrodynamic instabilities, but experimental demonstration in a controlled laboratory environment has remained elusive. Here we report experiments that use high-power lasers to create a plasma jet that can be directly compared with the Crab jet through well-defined physical scaling laws. The jet generates its own embedded toroidal magnetic fields; as it moves, plasma instabilities result in multiple deflections of the propagation direction, mimicking the kink behaviour of the Crab jet. The experiment is modelled with three-dimensional numerical simulations that show exactly how the instability develops and results in changes of direction of the jet.

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