To study the behaviour of plasmas is of profound importance to understand phenomena in space and their possible impact on the global environment. Some understanding can be gained by observing the phenomena by radars, rockets and satellites. The improvement of such observational techniques has opened up possibilities to observe small –scale plasma phenomena in space. It has also increased the awareness that the plasma physics underpinning the small-scale phenomena must be understood in order to understand the big picture of the ionosphere and its interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere, the magnetosphere and the solar wind plasma. The improved resolution of space observations and laboratory diagnostics also improve the possibility to more directly compare the observations with controlled laboratory experiments.
The Aurolab facilitates plasma experiments relevant to space phenomena. With the new Njord device we will focus on acceleration, flows and beams in weakly magnetized, low-temperature plasmas. Under such conditions, nonlinear potential drops, instabilities and turbulence may be formed. These phenomena are of specific relevance to auroral plasmas, which can be created by plasma particles flowing along the magnetic lines into the polar ionosphere.
The research on the Menja device will continue to focus on energy distributions in ECR ** plasmas with molecular gases, as well as on turbulence and ion heating in such plasmas.
A space simulation chamber (SSC), originally hosted by the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, is now being rebuilt in Aurolab. The SSC will offer possibilities to test and develop rocket instrumentation in appropriate vacuum and space plasma parameters in collaboration with scientists working from Andøya Rocket Range.
** ECR = electron cyclotron resonance, which can be used to heat electrons and create a plasma by propagating a strong wave into a region where electrons gyrate in a magnetic field with the same frequency as the frequency of the wave.