Theoretical Plasma Astrophysics
Astrophysical systems - planets, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, and possibly the intergalactic medium at large - carry magnetic fields. Magnetic fields play an important role in energy and momentum transport, can rapidly release energy in flares, and are required to accelerate the relativistic particles known as cosmic rays. Despite many decades of progress in cosmology, we still do not know when or how magnetic fields originated in the Universe. Plasma astrophysics is the study of how astrophysical systems interact with electromagnetic fields, and how the fields originated.
UW-Madison is an exceptionally good place to study plasma astrophysics. In addition to the astronomy and astrophysics program, there is an excellent plasma physics program (http://plasma.physics.wisc.edu/), and we are the lead institution for the Center for Magnetic Self-Organization (http://www.cmso.info/), which studies basic plasma processes and their application to astrophysics. The IceCube project (http://icecube.wisc.edu) is also a source of inspiration.