Sun  ID: 11368

Magnetic Reconnection

We see auroras at the tail end of a great journey energy makes from the sun. Now, scientists have mapped the details of this journey better than ever before. Auroras are produced when fast-moving particles funnel toward the poles and collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere. But what shifts these particles into high gear is a shockwave of energy that’s caused by the crossing and realignment of magnetic field lines on the night side of the planet. This process, called magnetic reconnection, takes place in a distant region of the vast magnetic environment that surrounds Earth known as the magnetotail. Taking advantage of an unprecedented alignment of eight satellites, scientists tracked the flow of energy from the sun to the magnetotail and back to Earth for the first time. Watch the video to see this journey unfold.

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Story Credits

Tom Bridgman (GST)

Video Editor:
Genna Duberstein (USRA)

David G. Sibeck (NASA/GSFC)

Genna Duberstein (USRA)

Lead Scientists:
Vassilis Angelopoulos (University of California at Berkeley)
Joachim Raeder (University of New Hampshire)

Lead Writer:
Karen Fox (ADNET)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Aurora image courtesy of Minoru Yoneto

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