Physics Department Seminar University of Alaska Fairbanks

J O U R N A L    C L U B


The Fast Plasma Investigation on NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission

C.J. Pollock
UAF GI Affiliate Faculty



Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) consists of four identically instrumented spacecraft flying in a high Earth orbital formation. MMS was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in March 2015. MMS is dedicated to the study of magnetic reconnection, a plasma physical phenomenon in which magnetic topology is rearranged and magnetic energy is converted to plasma kinetic energy by particle acceleration and heating. Magnetic reconnection, first proposed to be operative in Earth’s magnetosphere by Jim Dungey, is ubiquitous and important in our plasma universe. Goddard Space Flight Center led the spacecraft development for MMS and led the development of the Fast Plasma Investigation (FPI), composed of a total of 64 top hat plasma spectrometers and 4 Instrument Data Processing Units (IDPU). These 64 spectrometers are packaged as 16 Dual Electron Spectrometers (DES) and 16 Dual Ion Spectrometers (DIS), with four of each kind deployed on each of the 4 MMS spacecraft. The FPI is thereby able to perform 3D plasma distribution function measurements in space at a rate 100x faster than has heretofore been possible. This feature is critically important to our efforts to understand the physics underlying magnetic reconnection. Two major sites where magnetic reconnection occurs in near-Earth space are at the Earth’s Magnetopause (boundary between region of space dominated by the solar magnetic field and that dominated by Earth’s magnetic field) and deep in the geomagnetic tail, near 200,000 away from Earth in the anti-sunward direction. We will describe the MMS mission and the FPI and will provide a sampling of initial results.


Friday, 25 March 2016 Postponed

Globe Room, Elvey Building

3:45 PM