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eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCSC is one of the world's leading centers for both observational and theoretical research in astronomy and astrophysics. The department was recently ranked first in the country in research impact, based on citation studies. Faculty and students in the department and our affiliated research centers are building and using first-rank telescopes and instrumentation—on Earth and in space—extending humanity’s vision to planets orbiting nearby stars and the first stirrings of the Universe.

The department includes 24 faculty members, whose research interests range from our solar system and the Milky Way to the most distant galaxies in the Universe and the most fundamental questions of cosmology.

UCSC is a leader in astrophysics education, and we attract some the best graduate students in the country, enrolling approximately 40 students working towards the Ph.D. degree.

Currently this page is for hosting only ISIMA (International Summer Institute for Modeling in Astrophysics) conference proceedings.

Cover page of Production of Elephant Trunks in HII Regions by Radiation-Magnetohydrodynamic Instabilities

Production of Elephant Trunks in HII Regions by Radiation-Magnetohydrodynamic Instabilities

(2010)

Recent SPH and grid code simulations showed, that ionizing radiation can amplify overdensities in turbulent molecular clouds and produce molecular pillars. The relevance of magnetic fields for the structure and stability of molecular clouds is still under discussion. We investigate whether an ionization front hitting a medium with small distortions of the magnetic field can produce the observed pillar-like structures in star forming regions (e.g. Eagle Nebula). Numerical MHD simulations with the Athena 2.0 grid code with ionizing radiation were performed. It turns out that the ionizing radiation drives a shock wave into the cold magnetized cloud and amplifies overdensities seeded by Alfven waves. Alfven waves can be seeds for molecular pillars. However, the magnetic field in structures created by Alfven waves makes these regions hostile to star formation.

Cover page of Fragmentation of metal-poor star-forming cores

Fragmentation of metal-poor star-forming cores

(2010)

The collapse of star-forming molecular clouds depends critically on radiation feedback from embedded protostars. In general, radiative heating raises the local Jeans mass, helping the gas resist fragmentation. However, the strength of this effect should depend on the metallicity of the star-forming region through its effect on the dust opacity, which determines the level of coupling between the matter and the radiation. In this project, we perform a series of AMR radiation-hydrodynamic simulations with the ORION code to determine what effect varying this coupling has on the star formation process.

Cover page of The Sun's meridional circulation and interior magnetic field

The Sun's meridional circulation and interior magnetic field

(2010)

This effort seeks to explore the fundamental dynamics of a solar model such as that of Gough and McIntyre. Interaction of meridional flows downwelling from the convection zone into the radiative interior with a confined interior magnetic field are explored through a simple Cartesian model and linearized governing equations. Semi-analytical solutions reveal understanding of dynamics that have implications for magnetic confinement and gyroscopic pumping, as well as for stellar mixing.

Cover page of Sweet-Parker Reconnection with Anomalous Resistivity — A Toy Model

Sweet-Parker Reconnection with Anomalous Resistivity — A Toy Model

(2010)

Magnetic reconnection is a common phenomenon in astrophysical contexts. The conventional Sweet-Parker model describes magnetic reconnection due resistivity. However, microscopic resistivity appears too small to reproduce the observed rate of reconnection. In this report, we describe the basic idea of anomalous resistivity in non-relativistic collisionless ion-electron plasma. We build a one-dimensional model along the direction of current in the current sheet. When the ion temperature is much less than the electron temperature, ion-acoustic instability develops when current density is sufficiently large so that the electron drift speed exceeds a few times the sound speed. The instability generates ion-acoustic waves, which are damped by non-linear wave-particle interaction. Anomalous resistivity arises due to the momentum exchange between waves and particles. The calculated anomalous resistivity strongly depends on the current density in the current sheet, and is typically much larger than the microscopic resistivity. However, matching the anomalous resistivity to the Sweet-Parker model, the resulting reconnection rate still falls off the observed rate by a large factor.

Cover page of Radiative Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities

Radiative Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities

(2010)

This project investigates the role of radiation in Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities by performing linear stability analyses of a plane parallel background equilibrium, with a semi-infinite medium 1 overlying a semi-infinite medium 2, in a gravitational field g and a radiation flux F normal to the discontinuity.

Cover page of Stoked Dynamos

Stoked Dynamos

(2010)

In this project we address the question of whether a flow that is not a dynamo can be made to exhibit dynamo-like properties by feeding it with a small amount of magnetic field. This may be pertinent to the solar dynamo and the processes that sustain it. We present a 3-D fully nonlinear magnetohydrodynamic simulation of the dynamo properties of a time-dependent ABC flow and discuss a method for leaking magnetic field into the computational domain. Our results suggest that sufficient magnetic feeding significantly boosts the magnetic energy of nondynamo flows and can maintain a mangetic field for long times.

Cover page of Thermohaline mixing with the small Peclet number approximation

Thermohaline mixing with the small Peclet number approximation

(2010)

Thermohaline mixing is the mechanism that governs the photospheric composition of low- and intermediate-mass stars, and explains observations in these stars. It is important to study this instability with the hydrodynamic theory, and to derive prescriptions for the turbulent mixing that can be implemented in stellar codes. In this project, we discuss the formation of salt fingers on stable state, for different perturbations, when we use the small Peclet number approximation. The dominant mode of thermohaline mixing is different from the most unstable mode.

Cover page of Spin-down of protostars through gravitational torques

Spin-down of protostars through gravitational torques

(2010)

We present three dimensional hydrodynamic simulations of star-disc systems, focusing on the angular momentum evolution of the central object due to gravitational interactions with the disc. It is found that stellar spin-up is self-limited to approximately half its break-up speed. On long time-scales, we find that in simulations where m=1 is the dominant non-axisymetric mode, there is limited evolution in stellar spin. By contrast, in simulations where m=1 is non-dominant, we observe a monotonic decrease in stellar spin. Our experiments suggest a necessary condition for long-term spin down be that the system does not develop significant m=1 mode, which displaces the star from its center of mass.

Cover page of Geostrophic turbulence with a magnetic field

Geostrophic turbulence with a magnetic field

(2010)

The project is an extension of the work on f-plane magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence and its consequences on momentum transport. A somewhat detailed overview is given, with the physical mechanisms explained. The quasi-geostrophic equations, so well known in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) community, is derived with the Lorentz force present. The two-layer model is proposed as a simplified model for our studies. Progress with magnetically influenced barotropic and baroclinic instabilities are given, and some proposed future work concludes the document.

Cover page of Searching for radiative instabilites in massive star envelopes

Searching for radiative instabilites in massive star envelopes

(2010)

We investigate local radiative hydrodynamic instabilities in the envelopes of massive stars. Two different stellar models are considered, a simple polytropic model and a more realistic stellar evolution code model. For both cases, we compare the local optical depth and radiative flux with analytically derived instability criteria. Only a thin outer shell of the star, containing a mass of about 10-6 Mstar to 10-5 Mstar, can be subjected to this instability. However, the growth rate of the instability is relatively fast (about 10,000s) indicating a possible run-away effect.