Perhaps the most beautiful and eerie displays of light in our sky are a phenomenon known as the auroras. This natural glow of light in the sky in high latitude regions usually displays ribbons of colors from a fluorescent green to brilliant purple to a vivid crimson somewhat like an unexpected beautiful sunrise or sunset. Observers often call it the greatest show on Earth.
Auroras are triggered by geomagnetic storms when gusts of solar plasma wind strike the Earth’s magnetic field; charged particles rain down over the north and south magnetic poles, lighting up the atmosphere and causing the air to glow. In the northern latitude, this display is known as the aurora borealis or northern lights and in the southern latitude, it is known as aurora australis or southern lights. Like lightening, auroras are one of the few naturally-occurring plasmas found here on Earth.
Plasma science involving both natural and artificially produced plasma encompasses a variety of science disciplines ranging from plasma physics, atomic and molecular physics, chemistry, energy security, advanced space propulsion, and material science. Plasma’s unique behaviors and characteristics make them useful in a large and growing number of scientific and industrial applications important to our universe.
DOE researchers are making significant progress in this amazing field. For example, researchers at the...Read more...
During the past year, Dr. William N. Watson, physicist, of DOE/OSTI’s staff has posted quite a few very interesting white papers in OSTI’s monthly Science Showcase on OSTI’s Home Page. This quiet, unassuming man crafts prolific papers on popular science topics of interest to the Department of Energy (DOE). He investigates and assimilates this information from OSTI’s extensive R&D Collections and takes us on a layman’s journey through the technical details and scientific research that make it all possible.
William’s papers have helped us to understand key technologies developed at DOE Laboratories for the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity and how chemical analysis of rocks and soil is determined millions of miles away. We know what is happening with new heat pump technology and how DOE researchers are working to improve designs and efficiency. The coherence of galaxies and dark energy and dark matter has been explained and the exciting research that is changing what we know about the world around us. William has given us an in-depth overview of the unique capabilities of metamaterials and how DOE research is eliminating the technical obstacles to their production and use in new devices. We have learned about the development of quantum computing and its capability to solve practical problems not possible with present-day computers. We know how...Read more...