Years of research on turbulent reconnection in plasmas yields important astrophysical implications.
AIP Publishing selects Alexandre Lazarian, professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, as the winner of the 2021 Ronald C. Davidson Award for Plasma Physics for his paper, “3D turbulent reconnection: Theory, tests, and astrophysical implications.”
Lazarian’s paper and research investigated magnetic reconnection in turbulent plasmas and its numerous astrophysical implications. Magnetic fields are coupled with plasmas, meaning changes in one often lead to changes in the other. Until relatively recently, it was generally accepted this coupling is perfect for highly conductive astrophysical fluids at most scales.
However, in 1999, Lazarian and colleagues proved perfect coupling is not the case in astrophysical scenarios with ubiquitous turbulence. This idea of turbulent reconnection faced significant resistance when it was first proposed. Since then, Lazarian and his team built up compelling theoretical, numerical, and observational evidence in favor of the concept, which they detail in the award-winning publication.
“This recent paper summarizes 20 plus years of the work on turbulent reconnection and includes the work of my friend and colleague, Ethan Vishniac from Johns Hopkins University,” said Lazarian. “During this long period of time, predictions of the theory were confirmed via observations, the mathematical machinery was significantly extended, and we gained a deeper understanding of turbulent reconnection.
“Very importantly, turbulent reconnection has been established as a fundamental process that is an intrinsic part of astrophysical plasma processes.”
Magnetic reconnection can result in large energy releases, like solar flares, and has implications for powerful jets from supermassive black holes and gamma ray bursts, among other phenomena in the universe. Lazarian and his collaborators proved turbulent reconnection is a key element for accelerating energetic particles and enabling star formation.
“This work described the dominant role of turbulence in 3D magnetic reconnection and how turbulence dramatically affects astrophysical processes like those found in star formation,” said Michael Mauel, editor-in-chief of Physics of Plasmas. “I’m very grateful to AIP Publishing for sponsoring this award and for working in association with the APS Division of Plasma Physics to recognize authors of highly influential papers such as this with the Ronald C. Davidson Award.”
The annual award of $5,000 recognizes outstanding research contributions by Physics of Plasmas authors and is presented in partnership with the American Physics Society Division of Plasma Physics. Recipients are determined from a pool of the most highly cited and downloaded articles in the journal’s previous five years.
The 2021 Ronald C. Davidson Award for Plasma Physics will be presented to Lazarian at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics.
The article, “3D turbulent reconnection: Theory, tests, and astrophysical implications,” is authored by Alex Lazarian, Gregory L. Eyink, Amir Jafari, Grzegorz Kowal, Hui Li, Siyao Xu, and Ethan T. Vishniac. The article appeared in Physics of Plasmas on Jan. 29, 2020 (DOI: 10.1063/1.5110603 and can be accessed at https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.5110603.
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