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Ellen Zweibel

PI (Black Holes)

I am a theoretical astrophysicist with a focus on  plasma astrophysics. I study how  astrophysical systems interact with electromagnetic fields as well as the basic plasma processes that underlie these interactions. I have investigated the origin and evolution of magnetic fields in settings from cosmological structure formation to galaxies, stars, and stellar remnants,  how energy and momentum flow between magnetic fields, thermal gas, and high energy cosmic ray particles in stars, galaxies, and the intergalactic medium, astrophysical flares, galactic winds, and star formation.


Remarkably, a vast range of astrophysical systems is amenable to study with a relatively small set of tools. This is because the same basic plasma phenomena occur in radically different settings. Some examples are magnetic reconnection, which alters magnetic topology and often involves explosive energy release,dynamos, which amplify magnetic fields through fluid motions, acceleration of a nonthermal tail of particles, and magnetic turbulence. Although these processes are studied in the laboratory, under astrophysical conditions new physical effects come into play and extreme values of the relevant dimensionless parameters must be considered. Plasma astrophysics makes new knowledge in plasma physics as well as astrophysics.


I was educated at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, where I earned  degrees in Mathematics, and Astrophysical Sciences, respectively. I currently hold a joint  faculty appointment in the Astronomy and Physics Departments at  the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Previously, I was a faculty member in the Department of Astrophysics and Planetary Science and a Fellow of JILA at the Uiversity of Colorado – Boulder.


Five recent relevant references


“A Heating Mechanism Via Magnetic Pumping in the Intracluster Medium”, F. Ley, E.G. Zweibel,  M. Riquelme, L. Sironi, & A. Tran, ApJ 947, 89 (2023)


“Near Cancellation of Up and Down Gradient Momentum Transport in Forced Magnetized Shear Flow Turbulence”, B. Tripathi, A. Fraser, P.W. Terry, E.G. Zweibel, & M.J. Pueschel, Phys. Plasmas 29, 092301 (2022)


“Fermi and e-Rosita Bubbles as Relics of the Past Activity of the Galaxy’s Central Black Hole”, H.-Y.K. Yang, M. Ruszkowski, & E.G. Zweibel. Nature Ast. 6, 584 (2022)


“Cosmic Ray Transport, Energy Loss, and Influence in the Multi-Phase Interstellar Medium”, C. Bustard & E.G. Zweibel, ApJ 913, 106 (2021)


“The Basis for Cosmic Ray Feedback: Written on the Wind”, E.G. Zweibel, Phys. Plasmas 24, 055402 (2017)


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