The space above the Earth may appear empty. However, this is a real carnival filled with magnetic field lines and high-energy particles. This area is called the magnetosphere. Every day, charged particles arrange a show, shooting and diving through it. High energy electrons follow the lines of the magnetic field. Sometimes during the period of magnetic reconnection, where explosive collision of lines occurs, the particles are removed with such a trajectory as if they were fired from a cannon.
Of course, these processes cannot be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, special tools are used at NASA. The mission of MMS (Magnetospheric Multiscale) is one of these devices. The new study used the received MMS information to improve understanding of how electrons move.
Scientists observed complex electrons around the Earth and noticed that particles on the edge of the magnetosphere often swing as they move as they accelerate. The detection of areas where electrons are accelerated is the key to understanding one of the secrets of the magnetosphere: how magnetic energy is transformed into kinetic (particle motion). This information would help create protective technologies, because accelerated high-energy particles can disrupt the operation of satellites.
The visualization demonstrates the movement of one electron in the magnetic reconnection region. As the spacecraft approaches the reconnection point, the first high-energy particles become visible, and then the low-energy
The last study revealed a new way to find areas where electrons are accelerated. Until now, scientists have focused on low-energy electrons, but this time they decided to consider high-energy ones.
Such a task can only be done by the unique design of MMS, which uses 4 spacecraft moving in a tight tetrahedral formation. This provides a qualitative measurement of the temporal and spatial resolution of the magnetic reconnection region. The results will help scientists explore the microphysics of magnetic reconnection and better understand the effect of electrons on Earth.