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MMS Spacecraft Provides First-Ever Views of Elusive Energy Explosion

Artist depiction of the MMS spacecraft that provided the first view of magnetic reconnection. Credit: NASA / GSFC Researchers at…

Artist depiction of the MMS spacecraft that provided the first view of magnetic reconnection. Credit: NASA / GSFC

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving “magnetic reconnection” -the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a fast but mighty explosion-in The Earth’s magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. De vet at det eksisterer og har dokumentert de virkninger at energibruddene kan ha-sparking auroras og muligens ødelegger havok på kraftgridene i tilfelle av ekstremt store begivenheter, men de har ikke helt forstått detaljene. ” width=”777″ height=”398″ class=”size-full wp-image-56466″/>

In its second phase, NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) is watching magnetic reconnection in action behind the Earth, as shown here by the tangled blue and red magnetic field lines. Credit: Patricia Reiff / NASA Goddard / Joy Ng

On Earth’s dayside, magnetic reconnection is asymmetric – meaning it flings particles, like ions and electrons, unequally in different directions. In deze simulatie worden deeltjes hoofdzakelijk bewogen opwaarts verwijderd van de plaats van reconnectie langs de zwarte magnetische veldlijnen. Credit: Paul Cassak / NASA Goddard / Joy Ng

“This was a remarkable event,” said Roy Torbert of the Space Science Center at UNH and deputy principal investigator for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, or MMS. “We have long known that it occurs in two types of regimes: asymmetric and symmetric but this is the first time we have seen a symmetric process.”

Magnetic reconnection occurs around Earth every day due to magnetic field lines twisting and reconnecting. Het gebeurt op verschillende manieren in verschillende plaatsen, met verschillende effecten. Particles in highly ionized gases, called plasma, can be converted and cause a single powerful explosion, just a fraction of a second long, which can lead to strong streams of electrons flying away at supersonic speeds. The view, which was detected as part of the scientists’ work on the MMS mission, had enough resolution to reveal its differences from other reconnection regimes around the planet like the asymmetric process found in the magnetopause around Earth which is closer to the sun. 19659004] “This is important because the more we know and understand about these reconnections,” said Torbert, “the more we can prepare for extreme events that are possible from reconnections around the Earth or anywhere in the universe.”

Magnetic reconnection Det skjer også i solen og over hele verden, og i alle tilfeller presser vi kraftig ut partikler og kjører mye av den forandring vi ser i dynamiske rommiljøer, så det lærer om det rundt jorden hjelper oss også å forstå gjenkobling i andre steder i universet som ikke kan være reached by spacecraft.

Behind Earth, away from the Moon, magnetic reconnection occurs symmetrically. The more we understand about different types of magnetic reconnection, the more we can piece together what such explosions might look like elsewhere. This simulation shows particles traveling away from the site of reconnection equally in both directions, confined by the red magnetic field lines. Credit: Michael Hesse / NASA Goddard / Joy Ng

For the first reported asymmetrical event on October 16, 2015, and now this symmetrical event on July 11, 2017, NASA’s MMS mission made history by flying through magnetic reconnection events near the Earth . De fire MMS-rumcrafts, die uit een enkele raket werden gelanceerd, waren alleen binnen de gebeurtenissen voor een paar seconden, maar de instrumenten die UNH-onderzoekers hielpen te ontwikkelen waren in staat om data te verzamelen bij een ongekende snelheid van honderd keer sneller dan ooit tevoren. As a result, scientists could track the way the magnetic fields changed, new electric fields presented, as well as the speeds and direction of the various charged particles.

This work was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.

Publication: RB Torbert, et al., “Electron scale dynamics of the diffusion region during symmetric magnetic reconnection in space,” Science, Nov. 15, 2018: eaat2998; DOI: 10.1126 / science.aat2998

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