Jet Plane. Electric and magnetic fields applied to a disk and ring create a "spider" pattern of plasma. Over time, the streams merge at the center into a single jet that is reminiscent of jets shooting from quasars or the sun. Image Credit:Phys. Rev. Lett. 95, 045002 (2005)
From the surface of the sun to the violent cores of quasars, many astrophysical objects shoot plasma in sharply defined streams, guided by magnetic fields. Researchers recently presented a laboratory demonstration in which magnetic forces squeeze hot plasma into a narrow tube without any extraordinary arrangement of conditions. This mechanism, the scientists claim, may help explain why tightly confined jets arise in many different astrophysical circumstances, although some astrophysicists find the leap from lab to cosmos premature.