Bringing galaxy-scale magnetic fields down to size in the lab


    For a variety of obvious reasons, it’s impossible to reproduce the
    exact environment in which galaxies form. The lack of direct
    experimental tests for a the models astrophysicists use creates a
    disconnect between what astronomers observe and theoretical
    work. However, that barrier is being broken down by a combination of high-powered lasers and a new understanding of how
    lab-scale experiments can be related to vastly larger systems such as

    Researchers at the Laboratoire pour l’Utilisation de Lasers Intenses
    (LULI), along with colleagues at various universities, have
    successfully simulated the magnetic fields that form in early
    galaxies. Naively, there seems to be no correspondence between the
    experiment and the real astrophysical system. The lab set-up is very
    small, works on a very short time frame, and uses carbon rods and
    lasers; the real environment for galaxy formation is clouds of gas and
    dark matter, and the time-scale is hundreds of millions of
    years. Nevertheless, a magnetic field strength (along with other effects) has been observed in the lab that corresponds to that experienced by early protogalaxies.

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    Bringing galaxy-scale magnetic fields down to size in the lab


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