Cosmic plasma physics - WS 2014/15


Sun image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (credit NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, link)

Lecture notes

Lecture 1: slides / videos (Introduction)
Lecture 2: slides (Basic plasma concepts)
Lecture 3: slides (Drifts and magnetic mirrors)
Lecture 4: slides (Hydrodynamics)
Lecture 5: slides (MHD - Equations and forces)
Lecture 6: slides (MHD - Alfven's theorem)
Lecture 7: slides / video 1  / video 2  (The Sun and its wind)
Lecture 8: slides (MHD waves)
Lecture 9: slides / Alex's slides  (Shocks)
Lecture 10: slides / video 1  / video 2  (Magnetic reconnection)
Lecture 11: slides (Emission processes)
Lecture 12: slides / video 1  / video 2  (The Crab Pulsar Wind Nebula)


Intro to SageMath / Exercise organization

Exercise 1: sheet
Exercise 2: sheet
Exercise 3: sheet
Exercise 4: sheet
Exercise 5: sheet
Where and when?

HU schedule

Lecture: Weekly Wednesday 9-11 in NEW 14 1'13

Exercises: Bi-Weekly Wednesday 15-17 in NEW 14 1'13, dates as listed below:


The lectures will mostly be based on the following books:

  • J.G. Kirk, D.B. Melrose, E.R. Priest, Plasma Astrophysics
  • M. Longair. High-Energy Astrophysics. Cambridge
  • H. C. Spruit. Essential Magnetohydrodynamics for Astrophysics arXiv:1301.5572
  • Russell M. Kulsrud. Plasma Physics for Astrophysics. Princeton University Press
  • Steven J. Schwartz. Astrophysical Plasmas Online Book


Most baryonic matter in the Universe is in the form of plasma. Plasma physics is essential to understand astronomical sources, as e.g. stars, active galaxies, pulsars, gamma-ray burst, galaxy clusters or the Cosmic Microwave Background. This lecture will give in introduction to the theory of Magnetohydrodynamics used to describe magnetized plasmas. It will focus on high-energy phenomena occurring within these plasmas, such as particle acceleration and the related emission of high-energy radiation.

The covered topics will include:

  • Observational overview of the high-energy universe
  • Introduction to Magnetohydrodynamics
  • Radiation processes in cosmic plasmas
  • Particle acceleration in cosmic plasmas (shock acceleration, magnetic reconnection)
  • Theoretical introduction to high-energy sources as pulsars, active galaxies, galaxy clusters, super nova remnants and our Sun

Contact info: