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NASA Spacecraft Finds New Type of Magnetic Explosion

NASA probe finds new magnetic process in turbulent space

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After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

Scientists working with a NASA probe that investigates how the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields connect and disconnect have uncovered a new type of magnetic event in our near-Earth environment.

Launched in 2015, the Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, consists of four identical spacecraft that orbit around Earth through the dynamic magnetic system surrounding our planet to study a little-understood phenomenon called magnetic reconnection.

Magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon unique to plasma, that is, the mix of positively and negatively charged particles that make up the stars, fill space and account for an estimated 99 per cent of the observable universe.

The new discovery, detailed in the journal Nature, found reconnection where it has never been seen before — in turbulent plasma. For the study the scientists used an innovative technique to squeeze extra information out of the data.

“In the plasma universe, there are two important phenomena: magnetic reconnection and turbulence,” said Tai Phan, a senior fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author on the paper.

“This discovery bridges these two processes,” Phan said.

NASA
NASA. (Wikimedia Commons)

The finding of reconnection in turbulence has implications, for example, for studies on the Sun.

It may help scientists understand the role magnetic reconnection plays in heating the inexplicably hot solar corona — the Sun’s outer atmosphere — and accelerating the supersonic solar wind.

Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the space around Earth.

This fundamental process dissipates magnetic energy and propels charged particles, both of which contribute to a dynamic space weather system that scientists want to better understand, and even someday predict.

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Reconnection occurs when crossed magnetic field lines snap, explosively flinging away nearby particles at high speeds.

Magnetic reconnection has been observed innumerable times in the magnetosphere — the magnetic environment around Earth — but usually under calm conditions.

The new event occurred in a region called the magnetosheath, just outside the outer boundary of the magnetosphere, where the solar wind is extremely turbulent.

Previously, scientists did not know if reconnection could even occur there, as the plasma is highly chaotic in that region. MMS found it does. (IANS)

Next Story

NASA Making a ‘Rigorous’ Search for Vikram with Fresh Lunar Pictures

LRO will next fly around the region on November 10 and it will be another good opportunity with favourable lighting conditions for pictures, Petro said

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NASA also plans to build a space outpost in lunar orbit that can relay astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. VOA

BY ARUL LOUIS

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has taken a fresh set of pictures under better lighting conditions of the area where the Indian moon lander Vikram likely ended up and experts will be making a rigorous search for it, according to LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro.

“The lighting conditions on Monday were much more favourable, (with) less shadow in the region” compared to last month, Petro told IANS on Wednesday.

Scientists were not able to locate the Vikram in the pictures taken during the LRO’s last flyover on September 17, when it was dusk on the moon and the long shadows that covered much of the terrain may be hidden in it, NASA said at that time.

“We flew over the landing site on Monday and the camera team is still evaluating images, so we should know more in the next few days,” Noah said.

Chandrayaan 2, India, Moon
Chandrayaan-2, India’s ambitious expedition to the moon’s south pole, made headlines globally even as Vikram, the lander of the mission, lost contact with the orbiter. Pixabay

“We will do a careful search, we will be as rigorous as possible” and “we will find out soon” what happened to the Vikram moon lander, said Petro, who is based at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland near Washington.

“This is a large area, we don’t know exactly where we have to look. So it will take some time to search the images because we are looking over a very, very large area,” he added.

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Vikram lost contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) following its launch from Chandraayan 2 moon orbiter on September 6 and likely landed in an area around the moon’s South Pole.

LRO will next fly around the region on November 10 and it will be another good opportunity with favourable lighting conditions for pictures, Petro said. (IANS)