Earth is a giant magnet, and the field that surrounds it, the magnetosphere, is one of the main reasons why life on our planet could thrive.
But despite its crucial role in defending against cosmic rays and atmospheric loss, there is a lot we do not know about the magnetosphere. That's why, in March 2015, NASA launched the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS), a fleet of four spaceships, to investigate their secrets.
The Quartet lives up to this mission because it has experienced an unprecedented event-magnetic reconnection, which is the energetic "cracking" of crossed magnetic field lines in the Magnetosheath, a turbulent environment tens of thousands of miles from Earth is.
The discovery described in an article published on Wednesday in Nature may not sound esoteric, but it is an instrumental move to unravel the secrets of magnetism in our homeworld.
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"There are two major phenomena in the plasma universe: magnetic reconnection and turbulence," lead author Tai Phan said , a senior fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, in a NASA statement. "This discovery bridges these two processes."
While the paper is a good read for magnetism buffs, the visualizations developed by NASA will appeal to anyone who appreciates trippy AF simulations. This explanatory video, for example, is full of otherworldly images, including an animation of the magnetosphere that makes a real flash from the solar wind starting at 49 seconds.
There is also this beautiful model of the magnetosphere, shown in blue, enclosed in the chaos of the magnetosheath, depicted in Jupiter tones. It will really make you appreciate the safe planet harbor created by our magnetic force field.
But this overwhelming video could surpass them both, with its picture of magnetic reconnection as lightning in a golden swamp of field lines. It looks like you would see something if you were to enlarge a T-1
As if the science provided by the MMS spacecraft was not cool enough, NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio also produces high-quality art.
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