My photo (above) taken in August, 2016 a the sky over the Olympic Peninsula WA.
Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) (magnetofluiddynamics or hydromagnetics) is the academic discipline which studies the dynamics of electrically conducting fluids. Examples of such fluids include plasmas, liquid metals, and salt water. The word magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) is derived from magneto- meaning magnetic field, and hydro- meaning liquid, and -dynamics meaning movement. The field of MHD was initiated by Hannes Alfvén, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1970.
The idea of MHD is that magnetic fields can induce currents in a moving conductive fluid, which create forces on the fluid, and also change the magnetic field itself. The set of equations which describe MHD are a combination of the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics and Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism. These differential equations have to be solved simultaneously, either analytically or numerically. Because MHD is a fluid theory, it cannot treat kinetic phenomena, i.e., those in which the existence of discrete particles, or of a non-thermal distribution of their velocities, is important.
Applicability of Ideal MHD to plasmas
Ideal MHD is only strictly applicable when:
1. The plasma is strongly collisional, so that the time scale of collisions is shorter than the other characteristic times in the system, and the particle distributions are therefore close to Maxwellian.
2. The resistivity due to these collisions is small. In particular, the typical magnetic diffusion times over any scale length present in the system must be longer than any time scale of interest.
3. We are interested in length scales much longer than the ion skin depth and Larmor radius perpendicular to the field, long enough along the field to ignore Landau damping, and time scales much longer than the ion gyration time (system is smooth and slowly evolving).
The fluid core of the Earth and other planets is theorized to be a huge MHD dynamo that generates the Earth’s magnetic field due to the motion of the molten rock. Such dynamos work by stretching magnetic field lines that thread through turbulent or sheared flows in a conductive fluid: the total length of magnetic field line in a particular volume determines the strength of the magnetic field, so stretching the field lines increases the magnetic field.
MHD applies quite well to astrophysics since over 99% of baryonic matter content of the Universe is made up of plasma, including stars, the interplanetary medium (space between the planets), the interstellar medium (space between the stars), nebulae and jets. Many astrophysical systems are not in local thermal equilibrium, and therefore require an additional kinematic treatment to describe all the phenomena within the system (see Astrophysical plasma).
Sunspots are caused by the Sun’s magnetic fields, as Joseph Larmor theorized in 1919. The solar wind is also governed by MHD. The differential solar rotation may be the long term effect of magnetic drag at the poles of the Sun, an MHD phenomenon due to the Parker spiral shape assumed by the extended magnetic field of the Sun.
Previously, theories describing the creation of the Sun and planets could not explain how the Sun has 99% of the mass, yet only 1% of the angular momentum in the solar system. In a closed system such as the cloud of gas and dust from which the Sun was formed, mass and angular momentum are both conserved. That conservation would imply that as the mass concentrated in the center of the cloud to form the Sun, it would spin up, much like a skater pulling their arms in. The high speed of rotation predicted by early theories would have flung the proto-Sun apart before it could have formed. However, magnetohydrodynamic effects transfer the Sun’s angular momentum into the outer solar system, slowing its rotation.
Breakdown of ideal MHD (in the form of magnetic reconnection) is known to be the cause of solar flares, the largest explosions in the solar system. The magnetic field in a solar active region over a sunspot can become quite stressed over time, storing energy that is released suddenly as a burst of motion, X-rays, and radiation when the main current sheet collapses, reconnecting the field.
MHD is related to engineering problems such as plasma confinement, liquid-metal cooling of nuclear reactors, and electromagnetic casting (among others).
In early 1990s, Mitsubishi built a boat, the ‘Yamato’, which uses a magnetohydrodynamic drive, is driven by a liquid helium-cooled superconductor, and can travel at 15 km/h.
MHD power generation fueled by potassium-seeded coal combustion gas showed potential for more efficient energy conversion (the absence of solid moving parts allows operation at higher temperatures), but failed due to cost prohibitive technical difficulties.
Three above: The Sea of Okhotsk / north of Japan http://go.nasa.gov/2gq7by3
Sweden / Norway (below) http://go.nasa.gov/2g1lpZa
Washington State (two above) http://go.nasa.gov/2gpZ2d4
North of Antarctica & south of Africa/Madagascar (above & below)