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� 2003. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A. DETECTION OF A TAYLOR-LIKE PLASMA RELAXATION PROCESS IN THE SUN

By Dibyendu N, Michael Hahn, Richard C. Canfield and Dana W. Longcope


The relaxation dynamics of a magnetized plasma system is a subject of fundamental importance in magnetohydrodynamics—with applications ranging from laboratory plasma devices such as 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 a (linear) force-free field—where a 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

Year: 2003
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