Solar System Plasma



Plasma processes were crucial in the formation of our solar system. In order for a body of gas to contract enough to form stars and planets its angular momentum or spin has to be slowed down. As Hannes Alfven discovered, this happens as electric currents start to flow inwards as the electrically conducting gas rotates in a magnetic field. The current forms filaments, which move through the surrounding plasma, accelerating it. At the same time the filaments, converging on the innermost parts of the plasma cloud, slow it down, allowing it to contract.


Today, plasma processes are visible in detail on the surface and in the atmosphere of the Sun. Giant filaments of plasma twist upwards from sunspots. When they kink together they can form plasmoids similar to those in the plasma focus, but on a far vaster scale, as in this dramatic video from NASA. These plasmoids release energy in the form of solar flares, which sometimes affect radio communications and electricity transmission on Earth.