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Suggested Citation:"Particle Acceleration." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
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Page 169

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THEORETICAL AND COMPUTATIONAL PLASMA PHYSICS 169 plasma streams emanating from different longitudes on the rotating Sun. This turbulence plays an important role in heating the solar wind. Indeed, the solar wind has become a fundamental medium for investigating MHD turbulence— its generation, evolution, and dissipation—with advanced statistical concepts. An unusual microscale turbulence occurs when newly created plasma experiences the solar wind blowing across it, as is the case when cometary molecules are ionized. This turbulence is important in transferring momentum from the solar wind and can produce a deflection of the solar wind flow if the so-called mass loading is significant. Microturbulence plays many roles in magnetospheric plasma physics. Its importance in the magnetic reconnection process has already been mentioned. Another example, especially well studied from the standpoint of observations, modeling, and theory, is equatorial spread- F, a fluid-like turbulence in which flux tubes interchange in the low-latitude regions of Earth's collisional ionosphere. Large-Scale Flows The outward flow of the solar wind is one of the permanent features of space plasmas. Its speed varies by factors of two or three temporally and exhibits marked spatial variations, but the phenomenon is seen in every possible observation. Much less documented and understood is the coupling of such flow to planetary magnetospheres. Low-altitude observations at Earth indicate that the magnetospheric plasma is impelled into convection by coupling to the solar wind. The processes for this coupling are poorly understood: a steady magnetic reconnection may be the agent, or the magnetopause, the outer magnetospheric boundary, may experience Kelvin-Helmholtz instability so that the flow penetrates viscously. However, there is unanimity that the controlling processes take place in spatially localized boundary layers, with dimensions of the order of a few ion Larmor radii. The sense of the flow is antisunward at high latitudes and sunward at low latitudes, so that a circulation pattern is established. Because of the high electrical conductivity along magnetic flux tubes, it is expected that the entire magnetospheric plasma must participate in this convection. However, years of effort to measure steady magnetospheric convection far from Earth's surface largely have been inconclusive. The most recent data analysis suggests that the process may proceed in a bursty fashion. If so large, constraints would seemingly exist on the underlying physics: that it be initiated locally and hence probably involve microprocesses, and yet that it be transmitted globally on a rapid time scale. Particle Acceleration Because of their strong manifestations, energetic charged particles are central to astrophysics, and effort has focused there on acceleration processes that

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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