Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Data from the four satellites of the MMS mission reveal the dance of electrons in space - PHYSICS

You can’t see them, but swarms of electrons are buzzing through the magnetic environment — the magnetosphere — around Earth. The electrons spiral and dive around the planet in a complex dance dictated by the magnetic and electric fields. When they penetrate into the magnetosphere close enough to Earth, the high-energy electrons can damage satellites in orbit and trigger auroras. Scientists with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission study the electrons’ dynamics to better understand their behavior. A new study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research revealed a bizarre new type of motion exhibited by these electrons.

Electrons in a strong magnetic field usually exhibit a simple behavior: They spin tight spirals along the magnetic field. In a weaker field region, where the direction of the magnetic field reverses, the electrons go free style — bouncing and wagging back and forth in a type of movement called Speiser motion. New MMS results show for the first time what happens in an intermediate strength field. Then these electrons dance a hybrid, meandering motion — spiraling and bouncing about before being ejected from the region. This motion takes away some of the field’s energy and it plays a key role in magnetic reconnection, a dynamic process, which can explosively release large amounts of stored magnetic energy.

Read the article:


Gif: With no guide field to confine them, electrons (yellow) wiggle back in forth. The electron’s increasing speed is shown by warmer color tracks.
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Tom Bridgman

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