Cyclotron maser emission: Stars, planets, and laboratory

I. Vorgul, B. J. Kellett, R Alan Cairns, Robert Bingham, K. Ronald, D.C. Speirs, S. L. McConville, K. M. Gillespie, A. D. R. Phelps

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This paper is a review of results by the group over the past decade on auroral kilometric radiation and similar cyclotron emissions from stars and planets. These emissions are often attributed to a horseshoe or crescent shaped momentum distribution of energetic electrons moving into the convergent magnetic field which exists around polar regions of dipole-type stars and planets. We have established a laboratory-based facility that has verified many of the details of our original theoretical description and agrees well with numerical simulations. The experiment has demonstrated that the horseshoe distribution does indeed produce cyclotron emission at a frequency just below the local cyclotron frequency, with polarization close to X-mode and propagating nearly perpendicularly to the beam motion. We discuss recent developments in the theory and simulation of the instability including addressing a radiation escape problem and the effect of competing instabilities, relating these to the laboratory, space, and astrophysical observations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number056501
Number of pages7
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number5
Early online date12 Apr 2011
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Electron beams
  • Auroral phenomena
  • Magnetic fields
  • Cyclotron resonances
  • Plasma instabilities
  • Plasma waves


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