Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Reconnection tames the turbulent magnetic fields around Earth

Our planet is surrounded by the magnetosphere shown here in blue. As charged particles from the Sun flow around the Earth’s magnetosphere it forms the magnetosheath shown in yellow. Image credit Mary Pat Hrybyk Keith  NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Reconnection tames the turbulent magnetic fields around Earth
Sandra Phillips | 12 May, 2018, 08:13

Its primary goal was to study and assemble data about the microphysics of magnetic reconnection.

Accordingly, it would be as if when the magnetic fields are ruptured and relinked, the magnetic energy is then turned into high-velocity electron jets.

The area called magnetosheath is actually located above the planet and has the objective of protecting Earth against the solar wind. The energy forms into high-speed electron jets as the moving electric charge breaks down and reconnects.

The discovery of the phenomenon of turbulent magnetic reconnection with the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Spacecraft would be of a great importance in studying the Sun and to help scientists comprehend the function of magnetic reconnection the Sun's corona and in speeding up the supersonic solar winds. The observations, published in the May 10, 2018 issue of the journal Nature, provide the first evidence of magnetic reconnection occurring at very small spatial scales in the turbulent magnetosheath. The new discovery found reconnection where it has never been seen before - in turbulent plasma.

This type of magnetic reconnection occurs throughout the universe, and understanding the process as it relates to the Earth could help scientists better understand other processes in outer space. "People have been debating how this energy is dissipated and magnetic reconnection is one of the possible processes".

During the solar wind, the torrential rain of charged particles from the Sun impacts the Earth's magnetic field, creating tumultuous magnetic fields that circle the planet and spread over several thousands of miles.

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MMS consists of four identical spacecraft flying in a pyramid or tetrahedral formation to study magnetic reconnection around Earth in three-dimensions.

Previously, scientists did not know if reconnection could even occur there, as the plasma is highly chaotic in that region. It creates jets of electrons instead of ions and they move about 40 times faster than standard ions. Compared to standard reconnection, in which broad jets of ions stream out from the site of reconnection, turbulent reconnection ejects narrow jets of electrons only a couple miles wide. "This would be one data point with the basic data", said Amy Rager, a graduate student at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the scientist who developed the technique.

Magnetic reconnection occurs throughout the universe, so that when we learn about it around our planet - where it's easiest for Earthlings to examine it - we can apply that information to other processes farther away. "But instead we can get six to seven data points in that region with this method, allowing us to understand what is happening".

This release was adapted from text provided by the University of California, Berkeley, and NASA.

"The turbulence in the magnetosheath contains a lot of magnetic energy", said lead author Tai Phan from Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. NNG04EB99C and NNX08AO83G), the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (Award No. ST/N000692/1), the French Centre National d'Études Spatiales and the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. In the past, experts have witnessed this event taking place in various parts of the universe, including in a region called the magnetosphere. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $175 million.

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