Earth's Magnetosphere: Nature's Plasma Physics Lab

Much of what we know about the small-scale physics that allows magnetic reconnection to occur comes from theoretical studies and computer models. True understanding requires that our theories and models be placed on the secure foundation of in-situ observation. The reconnection mechanism cannot be studied in situ on the Sun or in remote astrophysical systems; nor can it be effectively studied in laboratory experiments where the scale sizes on which the critical processes operate are too small to be resolved. However, Earth's magnetosphere, whose structure and dynamics are controlled by reconnection, is accessible to regular in-situ measurement and provides the ideal natural laboratory in which to investigate magnetic reconnection as well as other plasma processes that occur throughout the cosmos.

Schematic showing the principal boundaries, regions, and current systems of Earth's magnetosphere

Regions of Scientific Interest

SMART PI: J.L. Burch
Web Curator: W.S. Lewis