Problems and progress in astrophysical dynamos Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Astrophysical objects with negligible resistivity are often threaded by large scale magnetic fields. The generation of these fields is somewhat mysterious, since a magnetic field in a perfectly conducting fluid cannot change the flux threading a fluid element, or the field topology. Classical dynamo theory evades this limit by assuming that magnetic reconnection is fast, even for vanishing resistivity, and that the large scale field can be generated by the action of kinetic helicity. Both these claims have been severely criticized, and the latter appears to conflict with strong theoretical arguments based on magnetic helicity conservation and a series of numerical simulations. Here we discuss recent efforts to explain fast magnetic reconnection through the topological effects of a weak stochastic magnetic field component. We also show how mean-field dynamo theory can be recast in a form which respects magnetic helicity conservation, and how this changes our understanding of astrophysical dynamos. Finally, we comment briefly on why an asymmetry between small scale magnetic and velocity fields is necessary for dynamo action, and how it can arise naturally.

publication date

  • January 1, 2003