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Laboratory formation of a scaled protostellar jet by coaligned poloidal magnetic field

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, pp. 325-328
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259694

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Abstract

Although bipolar jets are seen emerging from a wide variety of astrophysical systems, the issue of their formation and morphology beyond their launching is still under study. Our scaled laboratory experiments, representative of young stellar object outflows, reveal that stable and narrow collimation of the entire flow can result from the presence of a poloidal magnetic field whose strength is consistent with observations. The laboratory plasma becomes focused with an interior cavity. This gives rise to a standing conical shock from which the jet emerges. Following simulations of the process at the full astrophysical scale, we conclude that it can also explain recently discovered x-ray emission features observed in low-density regions at the base of protostellar jets, such as the well-studied jet HH 154.

Stellar outflows replicated in miniature

Astronomers observe tight bright jets beaming from the poles of many celestial objects. But what focuses them so well? Albertazzi et al. recreated a scaled-down plasma jet in a laboratory setting to match the behavior of those in young stellar objects. The experiments show that the jets are collimated by a poloidal magnetic field aligned with the same axis. A conelike shock also emerges, as the expanding plasma is abruptly confined by the magnetic field.

Science, this issue p. 325

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