Particle acceleration in shocks and turbulence in astrophysics
Research Group:Astronomy Unit
Length of Study in Years: 3-4
Full-time Project: yes
Energetic particles are a ubiquitous feature of many astrophysical systems. Cosmic rays permeate the universe and are thought to be accelerated mainly at the shocks driven by supernova remnants. Shocks are formed in the intra-galactic medium during mergers of galaxy clusters. In these collisions, synchrotron radiation from electrons with relativistic energies show as some of the largest observable coherent features on the radio sky. Nearer to home, shocks observed in the solar wind are always associated with accelerated and nonthermal particles.
There are still many puzzles about the processes leading to particle acceleration. In particular, the interplay between shocks and turbulence is increasingly recognized to be important. This project will use a combination of spacecraft observations and computer simulations to advance our understanding of particle acceleration in astrophysics. In particular, large-scale plasma simulations will be used to make comparisons with data from shocks in space plasmas. These results will then be used in an astrophysical context to determine the basic processes at work in, for example, solar flares or galaxy cluster mergers.
SPA Academics: David Burgess