Supersonic plasma turbulence in the laboratory

T. G. White*, M. T. Oliver, P. Mabey, M. Kühn-Kauffeldt, A. F.A. Bott, L. N.K. Döhl, A. R. Bell, R. Bingham, R. Clarke, J. Foster, G. Giacinti, P. Graham, R. Heathcote, M. Koenig, Y. Kuramitsu, D. Q. Lamb, J. Meinecke, Th Michel, F. Miniati, M. NotleyB. Reville, D. Ryu, S. Sarkar, Y. Sakawa, M. P. Selwood, J. Squire, R. H.H. Scott, P. Tzeferacos, N. Woolsey, A. A. Schekochihin, G. Gregori

*Corresponding author for this work

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The properties of supersonic, compressible plasma turbulence determine the behavior of many terrestrial and astrophysical systems. In the interstellar medium and molecular clouds, compressible turbulence plays a vital role in star formation and the evolution of our galaxy. Observations of the density and velocity power spectra in the Orion B and Perseus molecular clouds show large deviations from those predicted for incompressible turbulence. Hydrodynamic simulations attribute this to the high Mach number in the interstellar medium (ISM), although the exact details of this dependence are not well understood. Here we investigate experimentally the statistical behavior of boundary-free supersonic turbulence created by the collision of two laser-driven high-velocity turbulent plasma jets. The Mach number dependence of the slopes of the density and velocity power spectra agree with astrophysical observations, and supports the notion that the turbulence transitions from being Kolmogorov-like at low Mach number to being more Burgers-like at higher Mach numbers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1758
Number of pages6
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019

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© The Author(s) 2019

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