tech2 News StaffAugust 14, 2019 2:51:28 PM IST
For the first time in human history, we have visible evidence of "interplanetary shock".
Starting at sunrise, these shakes constantly release streams of charged particles called the solar wind. Solar wind typically comes in two types – slow and fast. When a rapid flow of solar wind passes a slower stream, it creates a shock wave. Just as a boat moving through a river creates a wave, the wave then propagates through the solar system, a statement from NASA says.
These shakes are found everywhere in the universe, from distant stars to supernovae and black holes.
This phenomenon was captured by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission on January 8, 2019. The MMS mission, a group of four spacecraft orbiting Earth in tight formation, was launched in 2015. Their coordinated movement allows researchers to observe and map interplanetary shock. waves in 3-D space. The study also collects information about magnetic fields around the Earth, how and where they overlap and the energy released when two such magnetic fields intertwine, in a process known as magnetic reunion.
MMS is observing a reunion here in the very peculiar protective magnetic space environment, the magnetosphere. By studying reconnection in this local, natural lab, MMS can help us understand reconnecting elsewhere in the universe as well as in the atmosphere of the sun and other stars, in the vicinity of black holes and neutron stars, and at the boundary between our solar systems. in a heliosphere and interstellar space.
These spacecraft are equipped with high-resolution instruments that help them "See what no other spaceship can." These instruments helped to take measurements of the shock waves.
One instrument suite in particular that helped with the measurements is the Rapid Plasma Research suite. It measures ions and electrons around the spacecraft up to 6 times per second. Because fast shock waves could pass through the spacecraft in only half, this instrument's large-speed sampling capability is essential for capturing such ocular wave events.
When scientists look at data collected from that same day on the shock recorded by MMS, they noticed a group of ions picked up by the solar wind. Shortly afterwards, they noticed a second set of ions, created by ions in the area, that bounced off the shock as it passed. Analyzing this second population, the scientists found evidence to support a theory of energy transfer first proposed in the 1980s.
As the four MMS spacecraft were separated by only 19 kilometers at the time of the collision, scientists were also able to see small-scale irregular patterns in the collision, a further study is pending.
The findings of this event was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
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