Video URL http://pirsa.org/20120011
In compact astrophysical objects, such as neutron star magnetospheres, black-hole accretion disk coronae and jets, the main energy reservoir is the magnetic field. The plasma processes such as magnetic reconnection and turbulence govern the extraction of that energy, which is then deposited into heat and accelerated particles and, ultimately, the observed emission. To understand what we observe, we first need to describe from first principles how these processes operate in violent regimes applicable to certain classes of compact objects, where radiative drag and pair production/annihilation play a significant role. As a specific example, I will briefly cover our state-of-the-art understanding of one of these processes — magnetic reconnection — and present the first self-consistent simulations of QED-mediated reconnection in application to neutron star magnetospheres and explain how it helps us understand the observed gamma-ray emission from these objects. I will also talk about the future prospects of this area of research; QED-mediated plasma processes also take place in a variety of other astrophysical objects, such as the accretion disk coronae in X-ray binaries, coalescing neutron stars shortly before their merger, and short X-ray bursts in magnetars.