Data Centre for Astrophysics
Astronomy Department of the University of Geneva
ISDC Seminar

Tuesday, 5 October 2010 at 14:00

Chris Chaston
Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Auroral Particle Acceleration

Abstract. The aurora provides a local plasma laboratory for the study of processes of astrophysical significance. The conversion of electromagnetic energy into particle kinetic energy that powers the aurora is a universal plasma process thought to drive particle acceleration in a wide variety of contexts. The collision of particles, accelerated through these processes, with the upper atmosphere drives emission of auroral light in X-rays, ultra-violet and visible light. In this presentation I will show movies of these emissions and satellite observations of the acceleration process. Along the way I will describe physical models based on these observations to show how the particle acceleration processes drive the 'dancing' auroral light shows which are so well known - as well as indicating those issues which even after several decades of intensive study remain unknown. Time permitting I will also speculate on the role of similar processes in astrophysical contexts more familiar to the interests of the ISDC.

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