What’s one thing the interstellar medium, protoplanetary disks, stellar interiors, and the environments around black holes all have in common? They all contain dust grains moving within a fluid — and two scientists from the California Institute of Technology say we’ve been missing an important part of their behavior.
Pairing of Fluids and Dust
Hubble view of the Crab Nebula. Supernova ejecta are another instance of a coupled system of dust grains and fluid. [NASA/ESA/J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)]Fluids — which can refer to liquids, gases, or plasmas — rarely exist in isolation in astrophysics. More often than not, fluids come laden with dust particles; examples of dusty fluids include the environments near star-forming regions, in planetary atmospheres, in the disks surrounding young stars, or even around active galactic nuclei. Since these fluid/dust systems are abundant across the universe and are fundamental to many key astrophysical processes, it’s important that we understand how they behave.
Caltech scientists Jonathan Squire and Philip Hopkins ask one particular question: what happens when dust particles move at a different speed than the fluid surrounding them?
Relative motion of dust through fluid can arise naturally through many mechanisms. Radiation pressure, ...