MMS Sees a New Type of Reconnection

  • Released Wednesday, May 9, 2018
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The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission consists of four identical satellites that traverse various regions of Earth's magnetosphere measuring the particles and electric and magnetic field which influence them.

In the turbulent plasma between Earth's magnetopause and bow shock, a region called the magnetosheath, the MMS satellite constellation has measured multiple jets of energetic electrons between magnetic bubbles. This appears to be a new 'flavor' of magnetic reconnection based on electrons and occuring on smaller time and spatial scales than the standard model of magnetic reconnection with ions.

In these data visualizations, 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.
  • Green represents the direction and magnitude of the net electric current created by the motion of the electrons and ions measured at the spacecraft position.

The four MMS spacecraft are represented by colored spheres, corresponding to the plotted data lines in the lower graphic