Background

Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that protects us from high speed solar winds created by the sun. When these high speed charged particles strike earth’s magnetic field, the shock creates turbulent magnetic fields that stretch hundreds of thousands of miles.

Magnetospheric Multiscale (NASA)

What MMS Does

Launched in 2015, the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) provides high temporal and spatial resolution measurements of magnetic reconnection regions where the magnetic field is struck by solar winds. MMS’s instruments are capable of capturing data at speeds 100 times faster than previous spacecrafts.

Our Engineers

Newton engineers designed and developed the deployable booms that hold the magnetometer. These booms are extremely critical to the success of MMS because magnetometers are what measure the magnetism in the atmosphere. Our booms were designed to keep the magnetometers away from the spacecraft, in order to eliminate any magnetic influence from spacecraft, so the turbulent energy that scientists are measuring is directly from the atmosphere.

Discovery

Using MMS, scientists were able to observe turbulent energy in the magnetosheath, earth’s outer magnetosphere layer, where magnetic energy is higher. Magnetic reconnection has been previously observed to only occur under calm conditions. However, with the help of MMS, scientists were able to observe magnetic reconnection in the magnetosheath which answers the question to what happens to solar wind turbulent energy after it strikes the magnetosphere. The answer lies in the way magnetic reconnection occurs in the high energy field that is earth’s magneto sheath. Instead of jet streams of ions, turbulence here creates narrow and short jet steams of electrons. Why magnetic reconnection here releases electrons instead of ions can possibly be explained by the fact that electrons are fast and light, making them easier to participate compared to their heavy proton counterparts. MMS has opened up a new look into turbulence and magnetic field research.