Univ. of Maryland
Thursday, January 19, 2017
During the current solar maximum, we have seen a host of x-class flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun. The fact that we saw little danger from them on Earth is due to our planetary magnetic field, which shields us from the Sun's charged particle radiation. That field has weakened throughout recorded human history. The origin and dynamics of the magnetic fields of the Earth, Sun, gas giants, and nearly every massive astrophysical object raise numerous questions not resolved by existing theoretical, computational and experimental work. By using liquid sodium models of the Earth's core, we hope to better understand what determines the Earth's magnetic field strength, pattern and dynamics by probing the effects of turbulence, Lorentz forces and rotation on core dynamics. While it is not possible to match every aspect of core dynamics in the lab, the experiments we perform have a comparable force balance among rotation, magnetic fields and advection. It is possible using these experiments to match many parameters thought to occur in the Earth's outer core.