Research

Reconnecting

Vortices are a common feature of many flows. Here we see a helical vortex tube spinning in a swirling flow. The vortex itself is visible thanks to air trapped in its low-pressure core. As the vortex spins, two sections of it come together. This results in what’s known as vortex reconnection: the vortex lines break apart and rejoin in a new configuration – as a small independent vortex ring and a shorter section of helical vortex. Events like this are common but usually hard to observe directly. They’ve been previously visualized using vortex knots and have even been sighted in the quantum vortices of superfluid helium. (Image credit: S. Skripkin, source; research credit: S. Alekseenko et al., pdf)

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