Magnetic Kelvin-Helmholtz instability at the Sun
Farrugia, Charles J.
Astrophysical Journal Letters
American Astronomical Society / IOP Publishing
Flows and instabilities play a major role in the dynamics of magnetized plasmas including the solar corona, magnetospheric and heliospheric boundaries, cometary tails, and astrophysical jets. The nonlinear effects, multi-scale and microphysical interactions inherent to the flow-driven instabilities, are believed to play a role, e.g., in plasma entry across a discontinuity, generation of turbulence, and enhanced drag. However, in order to clarify the efficiency of macroscopic instabilities in these processes, we lack proper knowledge of their overall morphological features. Here we show the first observations of the temporally and spatially resolved evolution of the magnetic Kelvin-Helmholtz instability in the solar corona. Unprecedented high-resolution imaging observations of vortices developing at the surface of a fast coronal mass ejecta are taken by the new Solar Dynamics Observatory, validating theories of the nonlinear dynamics involved. The new findings are a cornerstone for developing a unifying theory on flow-driven instabilities in rarefied magnetized plasmas, which is important for understanding the fundamental processes at work in key regions of the Sun-Earth system.
Copyright © 2011 American Astronomical Society / IOP Publishing
Vol. 729 (1), article L8