Phenomena

Turbulence in the Solar Wind

One of the key features of turbulent flows is that they contain many different length scales. Look at the plume from an erupting volcano, and you’ll see eddies that are hundreds of meters across as well as tiny ones on the order of millimeters. This enormous difference in scale is one of the major challenges in simulating turbulent flows. Since energy enters at the large scale and is passed to smaller and smaller scales before being dissipated at the tiniest scales of the flow, properly simulating a turbulent flow requires resolving all of these length scales. This is especially challenging for applications like the solar wind – the  stream of charged particles that flows from the sun and gets diverted around the Earth by our magnetic field. The image above shows some of the turbulence in our solar wind. The structures seen in the flow range from the size of the Earth all the way to the scale of electrons! (Image credit: B. Loring, Berkeley Lab)

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