NASA To Investigate Magnetic Explosions

NASA To Investigate Magnetic Explosions

For the first time, NASA spaceship has measured the strange interactions between the Earth’s magnetic fields that are connected to explosive space weather events high above our planet’s surface. The phenomenon, known as magnetic reconnection, can interrupt telecommunications systems and satellites on our planet. Understanding how it works can possibly help researchers expect such space climate episodes and decrease their destructive side effects.

Released four spacecraft, mentioned to as MMS, so that they could negotiate the magnetosphere and record these replies. Now, researchers have published their initial findings in the journal Science.

“The decades-old mystery is exactly what perform the electrons do, and just how perform the two magnetic fields interconnect,” Jim Burch, lead author of the Science paper and principal investigator for MMS in the Southwest Research Institute in Dallas stated. “Satellite dimensions of electrons happen to be not fast enough with a factor of 100 to sample the magnetic reconnection region. The truth and speed from the MMS dimensions, however, opened up a brand new window around the world, a brand new ‘microscope’ to determine reconnection.”

Recordings from a flyby last October demonstrates that when two magnetic fields collide, electrons shoot out in straight lines, speeding through boundaries that would have contained them. Once these electrons are free, they finally perform a U-turn because of new magnetic fields they hit. 

The quality of information that you got from the MMS is exceptional. Scientists have used satellites before to watch this occurrence, however, NASA describes that it was like "seeing debris flung out from a tornado, but never seeing the storm itself."

See the video below for an illustration:

Magnetic reconnection changes magnetic energy into kinetic or thermal energy. We need to raise the value of this phenomenon since it affects the “space weather” based in the Earth’s magnetosphere. Here, humanity works a variety of satellites that are from time to time disrupted by these intense responses. MMS findings permit NASA to improve its predictions for magnetic reconnection and, therefore, better control its equipment wide. Magnetic fields can be found in different areas of the world as well, so dissecting these responses — an excellent driver of space radiation — may also safeguard our astronauts on dangerous missions.

Reconnection happens at the external edges of the Earth's magnetic field, which is known as the magnetosphere. This field is thought to be produced by liquid iron flowing deep within the Earth’s core. The turning and twisting of this hot metal make an electrical current, which finally produces a charged magnetic field that extends between 40,000 and 370,000 miles around Earth.

The magnetosphere behaves like a protective barrier and shields our planet from high-energy solar winds, which would then strip away the gasses in our atmosphere and kill life on Earth. The solar winds are produced by the Sun's outer atmosphere, which is so heated that it's continually sending out streams of fast-moving, highly energized particles toward Earth. These charged winds generate their own magnetic fields, which clash against our planet's magnetosphere.

Generally, the two magnetic fields oppose each other and move in different directions. But every so often the magnetic field lines connect and switch with each other. That’s called a magnetic reconnection event. "When the two magnetic fields link up, then that allows the solar energy to flow straight into the magnetosphere," said study author Jim Burch, vice president of the space science and engineering at the Southwest Research Institute. "It sets the entire field in motion." The excited particles from the Sun stream into the magnetic field lines of Earth, transferring energy into the magnetosphere.

To study these explosive reconnections directly, NASA introduced the Magnetosphere Multiscale or MMS, mission in March of 2015. The project involved sending four same spacecraft into orbit around Earth. In space, the probes are located in a pyramid formation, so that they can study magnetic reconnection in three dimensions.

Instruments involved the MMS spacecraft were able to exactly detect the movement of electrons during a reconnection event on October 16th, 2015, taking measurements once every 30 milliseconds. This way, the scientists were able to detect how energy was transferred. The data also showed the behavior of the electrons during magnetic reconnection, displaying how fast the particles moved and the directions in which they flowed. The electrons mostly monitored the same patterns that researchers predicted.

"This is valuable insight," said Amitava Bhattacharjee, a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, who was not involved in the study. "It's testing past theory and is certainly bringing to light that certain features were in fact predicted by theory."

However during their opinions, the researchers also establish that the electrons behaved in unexpected ways they had not imagined. That offers more encouragement to keep studying magnetic reconnection, the authors write. And by understanding more about the procedure, scientists can potentially recognize when magnetic reconnection is going to happen. "If you understand the underlying physics that drives space weather, I expect you can do a better job of predicting storms," said Burch.

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