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The discovery will help scientists understand the role magnetic reconnection plays elsewhere in space, for example, in heating the inexplicably hot solar corona - the sun's outer atmosphere - and accelerating the supersonic solar wind. The findings have implications for universe far beyond our planet.
Study lead author Tai Phan is a senior fellow in the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
In a turbulent magnetic environment, magnetic field lines become scrambled.
The conclusions have been presented in an editorial article in the journal Nature and embody the use of an advanced technique that is effective in obtaining additional data from the already obtained readings.
"Turbulence occurs everywhere in space-on the sun, in the solar wind, the interstellar medium, dynamos, around stars, in active galactic nuclei jets, supernova remnant shocks and more", Shay said. "Magnetic reconnection occurs when you have two magnetic fields pointing in opposite directions and they annihilate each other". They have also seen a flow of ionized hydrogen atoms emanate from the magnetosphere. Some of the charged particles are funneled to the north and south poles, where they collide with atoms in the atmosphere and create the auroras.
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"The turbulence in the magnetosheath contains a lot of magnetic energy". As said, it is about magnetic reconnection, a major process in the charged particle-filled space referred to as plasma, which revolves around the Earth.
This fundamental process dissipates magnetic energy and propels charged particles, both of which contribute to a dynamic space weather system that scientists want to better understand, and even someday predict, as we do terrestrial weather. As indicated by Michael Shay, a teacher from the University of DE, the electrons are considerably harder to track and are moving 40 times quicker than the ions. The spacecraft found evidence that magnetic reconnection was happening even in magnetosheath.
A new research paper co-authored by University of Maryland Physics Professor James Drake suggests that the answer to this question is yes. This time, it occurred in an area known as the magnetosheath.
The studied phenomenon happened in a region called Magnetosheath, located just beyond the exterior boundary of the magnetosphere, in which the solar winds are exceedingly strong. Previously, scientists didn't know if reconnection could occur there, because the plasma is highly chaotic in that region, Phan said.
Though close to home, the space immediately around Earth is full of hidden secrets and invisible processes. In the past, experts have witnessed this event taking place in various parts of the universe, including in a region called the magnetosphere. MMS found it does. The energy forms into high-speed electron jets as the moving electric charge breaks down and reconnects.
With the new method, MMS scientists are hopeful they can comb through existing data sets to find more of these events and other unexpected discoveries as well. Flying in a pyramid formation with as little as 4.5 miles' distance between four identical spacecraft, MMS imaged electrons within the pyramid once every 30 milliseconds. With instruments capable of capturing data at speeds 100 times faster than previous missions, MMS was able to observe phenomena no one has seen before.