NASA monitors the rotation of a plasma space tornado

NASA monitors the rotation of a plasma space tornado

The interplanetary space can hardly be called a quiet place. The sun constantly releases high-energy particles that can damage satellites or harm the health of astronauts. From the negative influence of the Earth saves the magnetic field.

However, some parts can break through. These moments are fixed by the MMS (Magnetospheric Multiscale) mission. New data show that cosmic plasma vortices resembling tornadoes create a turbulent boundary capable of passing particles into near-Earth space.

MMS was launched in 2015 using four spacecraft performing three-dimensional surveys of the Earth’s magnetosphere. The project explores the process of transfer of particles into the magnetosphere, considering the causes and consequences.

Using survey data and new 3D simulations, scientists were able to study the details of what is happening at the boundaries of the magnetosphere for the first time.

NASA monitors the rotation of a plasma space tornado

Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are observed in natural phenomena, for example, in the collision of two liquids. In the picture this is manifested in the form of clouds. Inside the magnetosphere, the density is much lower than outside, where the solar wind prevails. The magnetopause (boundary) loses stability when two regions move with different accelerations. Because of this, Kelvin-Helmholtz waves (large-scale eddies) form along the edge. This leads to the creation of plasma tornadoes.

Kelvin-Helmholtz waves can be found in the entire Universe, where two materials with different densities move in the neighborhood. Supercomputer Titan and MMS data showed that tornadoes turned out to be much more efficient than previously thought. A comparison of simulation and observation helped to derive accurate event parameters. Some reached 9,300 miles, and others 60, 90 and 125 miles long.

Recently, MMS has been installed on a new orbital point, where they will continue to study the interaction of energy and particles in the earth's magnetosphere. It is important to fully understand the fundamental processes of space, because the operation of satellites and the communication system depends on it.

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