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April 4, 2001

Can Solar Clouds Damage Spacecrafts?
Bellan Lecture at CSUS

Solar prominences - luminous clouds of solar gas erupting from the sun - are unpredictable and spew out huge magnetic fields that travel into interplanetary space and on rare occasions can damage spacecrafts and Earth's electrical power grids.

At 4 p.m., Thursday April 5, California Technical Institute professor Paul Bellan will lead a discussion about solar prominences at California State University, Sacramento in Mendocino Hall 1003.

Bellan works with a group that has developed a laboratory devise that creates magnetized plasmas known as spheromaks that have the same conditions and dynamics as solar prominences to study the clouds effects on the atmosphere and spacecrafts.

"Spheromaks are compact, dense translatable plasma configurations with high internal currents and magnetic fields," Bellan says. "A spheromak formation is closely related to the eruption dynamics of solar prominences. In all these situations, a previously stable, attached magnetized configuration suddenly tears off to form a topologically isolated configuration much like the detachment of a blown soap bubble."

His talk will include concepts governing both solar prominences and the lab experiment. He will also describe the operation of the lab and present photographs showing an expanding, twisting lab simulation of a solar prominence.

For more information about the lecture call (916) 278-5675. Media assistance is at the CSUS office of public affairs at (916) 278-6156.


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