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FEATURE ARTICLE

Simulating Solar Prominences in the Laboratory

The techniques used to advance fusion research can be fruitfully applied to some basic problems in astrophysics

Paul Bellan

Figure 2. Plasma is a gaseous mixture ofClick to Enlarge ImageAstronomers have long studied solar prominences—projections of hot, ionized gas jutting out from the surface of the sun—but much still remains to be understood about their formation and evolution. Paul Bellan attemptes to reveal some of the mysterious workings behind these solar fireworks by creating miniature prominences in his laboratory. To conduct his small-scale physical simulations, he borrows techniques that plasma physicists have used for experiments with magnetic-confinement fusion.


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