Plasma and Space Physics at Dartmouth
The Plasma and Space Physics at Dartmouth consists of experimental and theoretical research groups in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and at the Thayer School of Engineering, which study the near Earth space environment, including phenomena such as the Northern (and Southern) Lights and the Van Allen radiation belts. Our dynamic variable star, the Sun, with an 11-year cycle of sunspot activity, drives phenomena in the Earth's atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere, the cavity which the Earth's magnetic field carves out in the Sun's expanding atmosphere or solar wind. The experimental groups in Physics and Astronomy (LaBelle, Lynch, Millan) measure waves, charged particles and x-rays using ground-based, rocket and balloon platforms, as well as observational databases from spacecraft. Theoretical and computational modeling of magnetospheric processes and "space weather" is carried out by Lyon, Denton, Müller, Liu and students. Fundamental plasma physics processes creating disruptions in fusion plasmas also cause solar flares and create night-time "explosions" of aurora across the polar skies. The phenomenon of "magnetic reconnection" which converts magnetic field energy into particle kinetic energy in broad settings of space, planetary and astrophysical systems is the focus of Liu's group.