NASA Mission Results Shed Light On Magnetic Reconnection

This artist’s depiction illustrates the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft flying in a tetrahedral formation, superposed on a conceptual rendering of Earth’s magnetosphere (not to scale). MMS measurements along the dayside boundary of the magnetosphere have yielded important new insights into the role of electrons in magnetic reconnection. MMS is measuring this explosive physical process as the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields interact, converting stored magnetic energy into kinetic energy and heat. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

May 1, 2017 – On Wednesday, May 3, LASP space physics research scientist Allison Jaynes will present early results from the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission and the key role LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) plays in the mission.

MMS launched in March 2015, placing four identical spacecraft into orbit around Earth to study a little-understood phenomenon called magnetic reconnection.

Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process of nature that happens in charged particles all across our universe. Reconnection occurs when magnetic field lines meet and reconnect in a different configuration, releasing a gigantic burst of energy in the process.

Reconnection on the Sun-ward side of Earth contributes to plasma entry into Earth’s magnetosphere, while reconnection on the night-side triggers the burst of particles that results in auroral displays.

MMS is currently the only mission dedicated to the study of this phenomenon. Researchers are committed to answering questions surrounding the process of reconnection—questions fundamental to the nature of our universe—from the distant stars to nuclear fusion technology here on Earth.

Join Jaynes to learn how studying our near-Earth environment with missions like MMS makes use of a unique, nearby laboratory to understand the physics of magnetic fields across the universe.

The presentation will start at 7:30 p.m. at the LASP Space Technology Building (LSTB), located at 1234 Innovation Dr. on the CU Boulder East Campus Research Park. Doors open at 7 p.m.

For more information, visit the LASP website.