An astronomical perspective
Raman Research Institute, Sadashivanagar, Bangalore 560 080, India
Abstract. Early work on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence in the 1960s due, independently,
to Iroshnikov and Kraichnan (IK) considered isotropic inertial-range spectra. Whereas
laboratory experiments were not in a position to measure the spectral index, they showed that the
turbulence was strongly anisotropic. Theoretical horizons correspondingly expanded in the 1980s, to
accommodate both the isotropy of the IK theory and the anisotropy suggested by the experiments.
Since the discovery of pulsars in 1967, many years of work on interstellar scintillation suggested
that small-scale interstellar turbulence must have a hydromagnetic origin; but the IK spectrum was
too flat and the ideas on anisotropic spectra too qualitative to explain the observations. In response,
new theories of balanced MHD turbulence were proposed in the 1990s, which argued that the IK
theory was incorrect, and made quantitative predictions of anisotropic inertial-range spectra; these
theories have since found applications in many areas of astrophysics. Spacecraft measurements of
solar-wind turbulence show that there is more power in Alfvén waves that travel away from the
Sun than towards it. Theories of imbalanced MHD turbulence have now been proposed to address
interplanetary turbulence. This very active area of research continues to be driven by astronomy.
Keywords. Magnetohydrodynamics; plasmas; turbulence; interstellar medium; solar wind.
PACS Nos 52.35.Ra; 94.05.Lk; 96.60.Vg; 98.38.Am