Scientists uncover source of perplexing waves

PPPL physicist Jongsoo Yoo stands beside the Magnetic ReconnectionExperiment Credit: ElleStarkman

Magnetic reconnection, the snapping apart and violent reconnection of electromagnetic field lines in plasma– the state of matter made up of complimentary electrons and atomic nuclei– happens throughout deep space and can work up space storms that interfere with cell phone service and knock out power grids. Now scientists at the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and other labs, utilizing information from a NASA four-satellite objective that is studying reconnection, have actually established a technique for determining the source of waves that assist satellites identify their area inspace

The group of scientists, led by PPPL physicist Jongsoo Yoo, have actually associated electromagnetic field measurements taken by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) objective that is orbiting at the edge of the electromagnetic field that surrounds theEarth The findings recognized the source of the proliferation of “whistler waves”–waves with whistle-like noises that drop from high to low and originate from reconnection– whose detection orients the satellites relative to reconnection activity that can impact the Earth.


The research study, reported in GeophysicalResearch Letters, marks advancement of “a new methodology for measuring how the wave propagates in reconnection,” stated Yoo, lead author of the paper. The source, he stated, is exactly what are called “tail electrons”– particles with energy that is far higher than that of the bulk electrons in reconnecting field lines. Such electrons are “temperature anisotropic,” significance that their temperature level is not consistent however varies when determined in various instructions.


“What we prove is that you couldn’t have whistler waves without the active X-line”– the main reconnection area–“so whistler waves indicate that reconnection is near,”Yoo stated.


He started examining the source of the waves after discovering the exceptional resemblance in between the activity of the waves that MMS spotted and those produced in the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) at PPPL. The resemblance suggested that the physical procedures were the exact same in both the lab and space and resulted in a search to uncover the cause. On the research study group with PPPL were scientists from Columbia University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


Going forward, the group prepares to examine the advancement of whistler waves near the electron diffusion area, the narrow area in the magnetosphere and lab experiments where electrons different from field lines prior to reconnection happens. Results might show pertinent to the MMS objective, whose objectives consist of discovering the function that electrons play in helping with reconnection. Support for this work has actually originated from the DOE Office of Science (FES) NASA, and the National Science Foundation.


PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is committed to producing brand-new understanding about the physics of plasmas– ultra-hot, charged gases– and to establishing useful services for the production of combination energy. The Laboratory is handled by the University for the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the biggest single fan of standard research study in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to deal with some of the most important difficulties of our time. For more details, please go toscience

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More details:
JongsooYoo et al, Whistler Wave Generation by Anisotropic Tail Electrons During Asymmetric Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Laboratory, GeophysicalResearch Letters(2018). DOI: 10.1029/2018 GL079278

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PrincetonPlasma PhysicsLaboratory

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