Experiments at PPPL show remarkable agreement with satellite sightings

Sketch of NASA Magnetospheric MultiscaleMission Credit: NASA.

As on Earth, so inspace A 4-satellite objective that is studying magnetic reconnection– the disintegrating and explosive reconnection of the electromagnetic field lines in plasma that happens throughout deep space– has actually discovered crucial elements of the procedure in space to be noticeably comparable to those discovered in experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The resemblances show how the research studies match each other: The lab catches crucial worldwide functions of reconnection and the spacecraft files regional secret residential or commercial properties as they take place.

The observations made by the Magnetospheric Multiscale Satellite (MMS) objective, which NASA introduced in 2015 to study reconnection in the electromagnetic field that surrounds the Earth, correspond rather well with past and present lab findings of the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) atPPPL Previous MRX research study revealed the procedure by which quick reconnection happens and recognized the quantity of magnetic energy that is transformed to particle energy throughout the procedure, which triggers northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms that can interrupt cell phone service, black out power grids and damage orbiting satellites.


Guidelines for MMS measurements


The previous MRX findings functioned as standards for measurements taken by the MMS objective, which looks for to comprehend the area in which the reconnection of field lines in plasma– the state of matter made up of totally free electrons and atomic nuclei, or ions– occurs. The most current PPPL experiments extend the findings to brand-new locations ofagreement “Despite huge differences in the size of the reconnection layers in the MRX and in space, remarkably similar characteristics are observed in both,” stated Masaaki Yamada, primary private investigator on the MRX, and lead author of the current paper reporting the lead to the December 6 edition of NatureCommunications


The previous lab research study analyzed “symmetric” reconnection, in which the density of the plasmas on each side of the reconnection areas are approximately the exact same. The brand-new paper looks at reconnection in the magnetopause– the external area of the magnetosphere– and in the MRX that is “asymmetric,” significance that the plasma on one side of the area is at least 10 times denser than on the other. The MMS objective has actually focused its preliminary research study on the uneven element of reconnection, considering that the plasma in the solar wind– the charged particles streaming from the sun– is greatly denser than the plasma in the magnetosphere.


In the brand-new paper, scientists analyze what is called the “two-fluid” physics of reconnection that explains each habits of ions and electrons in a different way throughout the procedure. Such physics controls magnetic reconnection in both MRX and magnetospheric plasma systems, permitting an unmatched level of interrogation in between lab measurements and space observations.


Members of the MRX group with the gadget in the background. From left, Masaaki Yamada, Jongsoo Yoo, Jonathan Jara-Almonte,Will Fox, and HantaoJi Credit: Elle Starkman/PPPLOffice ofCommunications

Key findings


Following are crucial findings of the two-fluid, uneven research study on MRX that is revealed to be in striking agreement with measurements of electron and ion habits by the space satellites and the conversion of magnetic energy to particle energy. Computer simulations assisted these findings:


  • Electrons The experiments showed that electron existing circulations perpendicular, and not parallel as when believed, to the electromagnetic field. This circulation is crucial to the conversion of magnetic energy in electrons that happens in a narrow limit layer called the “electron diffusion region” where quick reconnection occurs. The finding corresponds with the current MMS space measurements and brand-new in the lab for uneven reconnection.
  • Ions The ion current likewise streams perpendicular to the electromagnetic field as in the electron case, and also is crucial to the conversion of ion magnetic energy to particle energy. For ions, this conversion happens in the broader “ion diffusion region” in between assembling plasmas and is a likewise current finding about uneven reconnection in lab plasmas.

The MRX experiments even more studied various elements of conversion in the symmetric and uneven cases. In symmetric reconnection, 50 percent of magnetic energy was formerly discovered to be transformed to ions and electrons, with one-third of the conversion impacting the electrons and two-thirds speeding up the ions. The overall conversion rate stays approximately the exact same in the uneven case, as does the ratio of energy conversion for ions and electrons.

Explore even more:
Macroscopic phenomena governed by tiny physics.

More info:
M. Yamada et al, The two-fluid characteristics and energetics of the uneven magnetic reconnection in lab and space plasmas, NatureCommunications(2018). DOI: 10.1038/ s41467-018-07680 -2.

Journal recommendation:

Provided by:
PrincetonPlasma PhysicsLaboratory

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