Zoom in to MMS and Magnetopause Reconnection

  • Released Thursday, May 12, 2016
  • Updated Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 2:24PM
  • ID: 4453

This visualization starts with the viewer camera just outside earth's magnetosphere (the faint grey mesh) looking down on the orbit of the four MMS spacecraft. During this portion of the mission, the apogee of the orbit takes the spacecraft just outside the magnetopause. The lower orbit speed at this location maximizes the time spent there and increases chances of catching a reconnection event which is the goal of the mission.

The camera zooms in to a chase of the four spacraft, simultaneously altering the timescale so each movie frame has a smaller time between them. We catch up with the four spacecraft and see the tetrahedral flying formation.

The MMS spacecraft are not always collecting data. Due to telemetry limitations, the data is collected in segments, at different sampling rates, and then downloaded to ground-stations on Earth. In this close-up view, we see two segments of data collection, with a short gap of no data between them.

The arrows represent the data collected by the spacecraft. To better comprehend changes as the spacecraft moves along, the data are allowed to 'echo' along the spacecraft trail. The length of the vectors represent the relative magnitude of the vector. However, the electron and proton vectors are scaled so equal velocities correspond to vectors of equal magnitude.

  • Magenta represents the direction and magnitude of the magnetic field at the spacecraft position.
  • Yellow represents the direction and magnitude of the bulk motion (total average) velocity of the electrons measured at the spacecraft position.
  • Blue represents the direction and magnitude of the bulk motion (total average) velocity of the protons measured at the spacecraft position.

No description available.

Closing in on MMS near the magnetopause.

No description available.

Closeup on the MMS tetrahedral formation. The spacecraft are about 10 kilometers from each other.

No description available.

Early sampling of the data near magnetopause passage. Note the magnetic field (magenta arrows) appears fairly uniform.

No description available.

Near the height of the reconnection event, electrons (yellow) are flying in all directions.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization is based on the following papers:


This visualization is related to the following missions:


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

MMS MMS-FIELDS (Collected with the FIELDS sensor)
Observed Data
MMS MMS-FPI (Collected with the Fast Plasma Investigation sensor)
Event List

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

You may also like...

Loading recommendations...