Jonathan Eastwood (Imperial): Magnetic reconnection: new results from Magnetospheric Multiscale
Magnetic reconnection is a process of fundamental importance to plasma physics in both space and the laboratory. This for two reasons: it controls plasma connectivity and it can rapidly release and convert stored magnetic energy. Although the consequences of reconnection are large-scale – for example in the context of the Earth’s magnetosphere, collisionless reconnection controls the circulation of plasma and energy transport leading to geomagnetic substorms and storms – the physics that enables reconnection operates on small scales down to the electron scale. Thus, progress in understanding reconnection ultimately requires detailed electron-scale measurements of reconnection, and the magnetic reconnection diffusion region in particular. In 2015 NASA launched the four spacecraft Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission with the primary goal of studying magnetic reconnection in the Earth’s magnetosphere. Its state-of-the-art payload is capable of measuring the electron plasma distribution on 30 ms timescales, 100 times faster than previous missions and finally capable of resolving the electron scale physics that controls reconnection. In this seminar I will discuss the MMS mission and its instrumentation, and then review some of the exciting results that have already been discovered using MMS. These include measurements of the electron dissipation region, ion-scale flux ropes, and the turbulence inside Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices. I will also discuss the current state of the MMS mission, what is happening next, and how you can access and analyse MMS data.