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NASA Spacecraft Discovers New Magnetic Process in Turbulent Space

Though close to home, the space immediately around Earth is full of hidden secrets and invisible processes. In a new discovery reported in the journal Nature, scientists working with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft – MMS – have uncovered a new type of magnetic event in our near-Earth environment by using an innovative technique to squeeze extra information out of the data.

Explosive Magnetic Reconnection in Turbulent Plasma

In a turbulent magnetic environment, magnetic field lines become scrambled. As the field lines cross, intense electric currents (shown here as bright regions) form and eventually trigger magnetic reconnection (indicated by a flash), which is an explosive event that releases magnetic energy accumulated in the current layers and ejects high-speed bi-directional jets of electrons.

Exploring Turbulent Space Around Earth

Earth is surrounded by a protective magnetic environment – the magnetosphere – shown here in blue, which deflects a supersonic stream of charged particles from the Sun, known as the solar wind. As the particles flow around Earth’s magnetosphere, it forms a highly turbulent boundary layer called the magnetosheath, shown in yellow.

3 NASA Satellites Recreate Solar Eruption in 3-D

Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. This movie illustrates the recreation of a CME and shock that erupted from the Sun on March 7, 2011.

Exploring Reconnection - Guide Field Off

This visualization shows the motion of one electron in the magnetic reconnection region. As the spacecraft approaches the reconnection region, it detects first high-energy particles, then low-energy particles.

Mapping Particle Injections in Earth’s Magnetosphere

As particles are injected into the space around Earth, shown in various colors here, spacecraft orbiting the planet observe their signatures.

Hinode Satellite Captures Total Solar Eclipse Video Aug. 21

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and NASA released this video of Aug. 21 total solar eclipse taken by the X-ray telescope aboard the Hinode joint solar observation satellite as it orbited high above the Pacific Ocean.

NASA and ESA Spacecraft Track a Solar Storm Through Space

While we track CMEs with a number of instruments, the sheer size of the solar system means that our observations are limited, and usually taken from a distance.

2 Minutes, 6 Hands, 1 Chance

A team of three scientists have two minutes to complete an experiment during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Sun Shreds Its Own Eruption

On September 30, 2014, multiple NASA observatories watched what appeared to be the beginnings of a solar eruption.

Exploring Reconnection - Guide Field Off

This visualization shows an oblique view of the reconnection region. Magnetic field direction is represented by the cyan lines. The color trail represents an electron moving in the field.

Exploring Reconnection - Guide Field On

This visualization shows an oblique view of the reconnection region. Magnetic field direction is represented by the cyan lines. The color trail represents an electron moving in the field.

Human Activity Impacted Space Weather

Our Cold War history is now offering scientists a chance to better understand the complex space system that surrounds us. Space weather — which can include changes in Earth’s magnetic environment — are usually triggered by the sun’s activity, but recently declassified data on high-altitude nuclear explosion tests have provided a new look at the mechanisms that set off perturbations in that magnetic system.

A Solar Eruption in 5 Steps

Scientists from Durham University in the United Kingdom and NASA now propose that a universal mechanism can explain the whole spectrum of solar eruptions.

Observations Reshape Basic Plasma Wave Physics

New light has been shed on the invisible forces shaping our near-Earth environment, unveiling a fundamental physical phenomenon.

Typical Alfvén Waves

In a typical Alfvén wave, the particles (yellow) move freely along the magnetic field lines (blue).

Kinetic Alfvén Waves

In a kinetic Alfvén wave, some particles become trapped in the weak spots of the wave’s magnetic field and ride along with the wave as it moves through space.

Rossby Waves on the Sun Could Aid in Space Weather Prediction

To predict weather on a planet, we look at Rossby waves, large movement patterns in the atmosphere, like the jet stream. Just as on Earth, the conditions on the sun are constantly changing. This is why scientists were excited to discover Rossby waves on the sun.

Rossby Waves on Sun

In this north pole view of the sun, the brightpoints can be seen circling counter-clockwise, revealing the magnetized Rossby waves flowing beneath the surface.

MMS Phase 2b: Transitioning to Magnetosphere Science on the Darkside

Over three months in 2017, the MMS spacecraft transitions from the dayside magnetopause, to a new, larger orbit on the nightside, as shown in this visualization.