University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Research

Robert Lysak

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Robert Lysak studies the fundamental theoretical understanding of the dynamics of plasmas in the Earth’s magnetosphere, as well as in other planetary magnetospheres, the solar wind, and other astrophysical environments.

I am particularly interested in the dynamics of the Earth’s auroral regions. The aurora is formed by the impact of high energy electrons on the Earth’s atmosphere, and how those particles are accelerated is an active area of research. Our group’s research emphasizes the role of Alfven waves, a type of plasma wave associated with oscillations of the Earth’s magnetic field. These Alfven waves can directly accelerate auroral particles, and can also serve as a transmission line carrying electromagnetic energy from the outer magnetosphere to lower altitudes where the auroral particles are accelerated. These Alfven waves can be resonantly trapped due to the rapid decrease of the plasma density with altitude, a region called the Ionospheric Alfven Resonator (IAR). The figure at left shows a numerical simulation of Alfven waves in the IAR, showing the mode structure of these waves.