The Extreme Light Infrastructure ERIC

Laboratory Astrophysics

Laboratory astrophysics is the study of astrophysical and cosmological phenomena on a laboratory scale using high-power lasers.

The notion of laboratory astrophysics goes back to the late 1960s, and the user of lasers in this respect dates back to the 1970s (CO2 lasers). With the advent of new, short-pulse, high-power laser systems this field is taking a step forward. Many astrophysical plasma phenomena can be reproduced on a laboratory scale with intense lasers, such as the following:

  • Magnetic reconnection
  • Collisionless shocks
  • Particle acceleration (cosmic-ray physics)
  • Coherent nonlinear structures (e.g., solitons)
  • Magnetic field generation
  • Jet formation
  • Rayleigh-Taylor instability
  • Radiation hydrodynamic physics (stellar atmospheres, etc.)
  • Radiative shocks.

Modeling astrophysical phenomena in the laboratory is based on the principle of limited similarity. The principle states that exact equivalence of the relevant dimensionless parameters is not required, but that it is enough for these parameters to be large or small with respect to unity, as they are in reality. This assures that the observed physics in the experiment is relevant for the corresponding phenomena on astrophysical scales.

Laboratory astrophysics also has a strong overlap with WDM (→ html link) and High Energy Density Physics (HEDP → html link) as far as calculations such as radiative opacities and the equation of state (EOS) are concerned. It is not possible to imagine plasma astrophysics without magnetic fields. The collisionless interaction of exploding plasmas with magnetized media is fundamental to an understanding of particle acceleration in the universe, Weibel instability, supernova remnants, and gamma-ray bursts, to name just a few.


  1. S.V. Bulanov et al. On the problems of relativistic laboratory astrophysics and fundamental physics with super powerful lasers, Plasma Phys. Rep. 41, 1 (2015).
  2. Y.P. Zakharov. Collisionless laboratory astrophysics with lasers, IEEE Plasma Science 31, 1243 (2003).
  3. P. Chen. Laser cosmology, Eur. Phys. J. ST 223, 1121 (2014).
  4. D.W. Savin et al. The impact of recent advances in laboratory astrophysics on our understanding of the cosmos, Rep. Prog. Phys. 75, 036901 (2012).
  5. B. Remington et al. Experimental astrophysics with high power lasers and Z pinches, Rev. Mod. Phys. 78, 755 (2006).
  6. S.V. Bulanov et al. Relativistic laser-matter interaction and relativistic laboratory astrophysics, Eur. Phys. J. D 55, 483 (2009).
  7. D.D. Ryutov et al. Scaling astrophysical phenomena to high-energy-density laboratory experiments, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 44, B407 (2002).
  8. S.V. Lebedev. High energy density laboratory astrophysics, Springer Verlag (2007).
Deepak Kumar BATHEJA,

Yanjun GU,

Yue LIU,

Sushil SINGH,

Stefan WEBER,