Astrophysical collisionless shocks are common in the universe, occurring in supernova remnants, gamma ray bursts, and protostellar jets. They appear in colliding plasma flows when the mean free path for ion-ion collisions is much larger than the system size. It is believed that such shocks could be mediated via the electromagnetic Weibel instability in astrophysical environments without pre-existing magnetic fields. Here, we present laboratory experiments using high-power lasers and investigate the dynamics of high-Mach-number collisionless shock formation in two interpenetrating plasma streams. Our recent proton-probe experiments on Omega show the characteristic filamentary structures of the Weibel instability that are electromagnetic in nature with an inferred magnetization level as high as ∼1% [C. M. Huntington et al., "Observation of magnetic field generation via the weibel instability in interpenetrating plasma flows," Nat. Phys. 11, 173-176 (2015)]. These results imply that electromagnetic instabilities are significant in the interaction of astrophysical conditions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics