SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Magnetosphere

1162

Several mammalian species spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field (MF) lines in diverse behavioral contexts. Magnetic alignment is a suitable paradigm to scan for the occurrence of magnetosensitivity across animal taxa with the heuristic potential to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of magnetoreception and identify further functions of magnetosensation apart from navigation. With this in mind we searched for signs of magnetic alignment in dogs. We measured the direction of the body axis in 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation (1,893 observations) and urination (5,582 observations) over a two-year period. After complete sampling, we sorted the data according to the geomagnetic conditions prevailing during the respective sampling periods. Relative declination and intensity changes of the MF during the respective dog walks were calculated from daily magnetograms. Directional preferences of dogs under different MF conditions were analyzed and tested by means of circular statistics.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Earth's magnetic field, Magnet, Earth, Dynamo theory, Magnetism, Solar wind, Magnetosphere

138

Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the main driver to transport solar wind into the Earth’s magnetosphere when the magnetopause features a large magnetic shear. However, even when the magnetic shear is too small for spontaneous reconnection, the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability driven by a super-Alfvénic velocity shear is expected to facilitate the transport. Although previous kinetic simulations have demonstrated that the non-linear vortex flows from the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability gives rise to vortex-induced reconnection and resulting plasma transport, the system sizes of these simulations were too small to allow the reconnection to evolve much beyond the electron scale as recently observed by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. Here, based on a large-scale kinetic simulation and its comparison with MMS observations, we show for the first time that ion-scale jets from vortex-induced reconnection rapidly decay through self-generated turbulence, leading to a mass transfer rate nearly one order higher than previous expectations for the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Magnetohydrodynamics, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Sun, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Aurora

47

Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the dominant process by which solar wind plasma enters the magnetosphere. However, for periods of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) reconnection is less likely at the dayside magnetopause, and Kelvin-Helmholtz waves (KHWs) may be important agents for plasma entry and for the excitation of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves. The relative importance of KHWs is controversial because no statistical data on their occurrence frequency exist. Here we survey 7 years of in situ data from the NASA THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macro scale Interactions during Substorms) mission and find that KHWs occur at the magnetopause ∼19% of the time. The rate increases with solar wind speed, Alfven Mach number and number density, but is mostly independent of IMF magnitude. KHWs may thus be more important for plasma transport across the magnetopause than previously thought, and frequently drive magnetospheric ULF waves.

Concepts: Magnetohydrodynamics, Earth, Sun, Jupiter, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Aurora, Magnetic reconnection

45

The Juno spacecraft acquired direct observations of the jovian magnetosphere and auroral emissions from a vantage point above the poles. Juno’s capture orbit spanned the jovian magnetosphere from bow shock to the planet, providing magnetic field, charged particle, and wave phenomena context for Juno’s passage over the poles and traverse of Jupiter’s hazardous inner radiation belts. Juno’s energetic particle and plasma detectors measured electrons precipitating in the polar regions, exciting intense aurorae, observed simultaneously by the ultraviolet and infrared imaging spectrographs. Juno transited beneath the most intense parts of the radiation belts, passed about 4000 kilometers above the cloud tops at closest approach, well inside the jovian rings, and recorded the electrical signatures of high-velocity impacts with small particles as it traversed the equator.

Concepts: Electron, Earth, Sun, Planet, Jupiter, Neptune, Magnetosphere

16

Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental physical process in plasmas whereby stored magnetic energy is converted into heat and kinetic energy of charged particles. Reconnection occurs in many astrophysical plasma environments and in laboratory plasmas. Using very high time resolution measurements, NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) has found direct evidence for electron demagnetization and acceleration at sites along the sunward boundary of Earth’s magnetosphere where the interplanetary magnetic field reconnects with the terrestrial magnetic field. We have (i) observed the conversion of magnetic energy to particle energy, (ii) measured the electric field and current, which together cause the dissipation of magnetic energy, and (iii) identified the electron population that carries the current as a result of demagnetization and acceleration within the reconnection diffusion/dissipation region.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Electric charge, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Earth, Sun, Magnetosphere

16

Early observations indicated that the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts could be separated into an inner zone dominated by high-energy protons and an outer zone dominated by high-energy electrons. Subsequent studies showed that electrons of moderate energy (less than about one megaelectronvolt) often populate both zones, with a deep ‘slot’ region largely devoid of particles between them. There is a region of dense cold plasma around the Earth known as the plasmasphere, the outer boundary of which is called the plasmapause. The two-belt radiation structure was explained as arising from strong electron interactions with plasmaspheric hiss just inside the plasmapause boundary, with the inner edge of the outer radiation zone corresponding to the minimum plasmapause location. Recent observations have revealed unexpected radiation belt morphology, especially at ultrarelativistic kinetic energies (more than five megaelectronvolts). Here we analyse an extended data set that reveals an exceedingly sharp inner boundary for the ultrarelativistic electrons. Additional, concurrently measured data reveal that this barrier to inward electron radial transport does not arise because of a physical boundary within the Earth’s intrinsic magnetic field, and that inward radial diffusion is unlikely to be inhibited by scattering by electromagnetic transmitter wave fields. Rather, we suggest that exceptionally slow natural inward radial diffusion combined with weak, but persistent, wave-particle pitch angle scattering deep inside the Earth’s plasmasphere can combine to create an almost impenetrable barrier through which the most energetic Van Allen belt electrons cannot migrate.

Concepts: Electron, Earth, Plasma, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Van Allen radiation belt, James Van Allen, Magnetic mirror

13

Since their discovery over 50 years ago, the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts have been considered to consist of two distinct zones of trapped, highly energetic charged particles. The outer zone is comprised predominantly of mega-electron volt (MeV) electrons that wax and wane in intensity on time scales ranging from hours to days depending primarily on external forcing by the solar wind. The spatially separated inner zone is comprised of commingled high-energy electrons and very energetic positive ions (mostly protons), the latter being stable in intensity levels over years to decades. In situ energy-specific and temporally resolved spacecraft observations reveal an isolated third ring, or torus, of high-energy (E > 2 MeV) electrons that formed on 2 September 2012 and persisted largely unchanged in the geocentric radial range of 3.0 to ~3.5 Earth radii for over four weeks before being disrupted (and virtually annihilated) by a powerful interplanetary shock wave passage.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Earth, Sun, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Van Allen radiation belt, Magnetopause

12

The most intense auroral emissions from Earth’s polar regions, called discrete for their sharply defined spatial configurations, are generated by a process involving coherent acceleration of electrons by slowly evolving, powerful electric fields directed along the magnetic field lines that connect Earth’s space environment to its polar regions. In contrast, Earth’s less intense auroras are generally caused by wave scattering of magnetically trapped populations of hot electrons (in the case of diffuse aurora) or by the turbulent or stochastic downward acceleration of electrons along magnetic field lines by waves during transitory periods (in the case of broadband or Alfvénic aurora). Jupiter’s relatively steady main aurora has a power density that is so much larger than Earth’s that it has been taken for granted that it must be generated primarily by the discrete auroral process. However, preliminary in situ measurements of Jupiter’s auroral regions yielded no evidence of such a process. Here we report observations of distinct, high-energy, downward, discrete electron acceleration in Jupiter’s auroral polar regions. We also infer upward magnetic-field-aligned electric potentials of up to 400 kiloelectronvolts, an order of magnitude larger than the largest potentials observed at Earth. Despite the magnitude of these upward electric potentials and the expectations from observations at Earth, the downward energy flux from discrete acceleration is less at Jupiter than that caused by broadband or stochastic processes, with broadband and stochastic characteristics that are substantially different from those at Earth.

Concepts: Electron, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Earth, Electric current, Magnetism, Plasma, Magnetosphere

11

Many internal and environmental triggers of primary headaches have been proposed, but establishing firm evidence for any of them has proved elusive. Geomagnetic storms, the disturbances of Earth’s magnetic field following Solar eruptions, have been proposed as one such trigger. In this study, we utilized a vast amount of self-reported symptoms from the online social networking service Twitter in order to investigate a purported link between the level of geomagnetic activity and the onset of primary headaches and migraines. We analyzed 63 million keyword-bearing messages posted over the three years covering the maximum of Solar Cycle 24. No correlation has been found despite the large sample size. The simulation reveals that the significant correlation would have emerged even if only 1% of headache (2% of migraine) instances were caused by geomagnetic disturbances, thus placing very low upper limits on the prevalence of this trigger among Twitter users.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Social network service, Solar wind, Geomagnetic storm, Twitter, Magnetosphere

11

The structure of Earth’s magnetosphere is poorly understood when the interplanetary magnetic field is northward. Under this condition, uncharacteristically energetic plasma is observed in the magnetotail lobes, which is not expected in the textbook model of the magnetosphere. Using satellite observations, we show that these lobe plasma signatures occur on high-latitude magnetic field lines that have been closed by the fundamental plasma process of magnetic reconnection. Previously, it has been suggested that closed flux can become trapped in the lobe and that this plasma-trapping process could explain another poorly understood phenomenon: the presence of auroras at extremely high latitudes, called transpolar arcs. Observations of the aurora at the same time as the lobe plasma signatures reveal the presence of a transpolar arc. The excellent correspondence between the transpolar arc and the trapped closed flux at high altitudes provides very strong evidence of the trapping mechanism as the cause of transpolar arcs.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Earth, Sun, Observation, Solar wind, Magnetosphere, Aurora, Magnetic reconnection