Laser and Particle Beams

Research Article

The role of particle beams and electrical currents in the plasma universe

Anthony L. Peratta1

a1 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545


Cosmic plasma physics and our concept of the universe is in a state of rapid revision. This change started with in-situ measurements of plasmas in Earth's ionosphere, cometary atmospheres, and planetary magnetospheres; the transition of knowledge from laboratory experiments to astrophysical phenomena; discoveries of helical and filamentary plasma structures in the Galaxy and double radio sources; and the particle simulation of plasmas not accessible to in-situ measurement. Because of these, Birkeland (field-aligned) currents, double layers, and magnetic-field aligned electric fields are now known to be far more important to the evolution of space plasma, including the acceleration of charged particles to high energies, than previously thought. This paper reviews the observational evidence for a plasma universe threaded by Birkeland currents and particle beams.

(Received October 01 1987)


† Paper dedicated to Professor Hannes Alfvén on the occasion of his 80th birthday, 30 May 1988.