University of Maryland
Atlantic Building, Room 2400 4:30 PM Monday, September 25, 2006
Coffee, Tea & Snacks 4:15-4:30 PM

James L. Burch
Southwest Research Institute

Magnetospheric Multiscale--The Reconnection Mission

The scientific objective of the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission is to gain a definitive understanding of how magnetic reconnection operates in collisionless plasmas. The mission will utilize a closely-spaced cluster of four identical spacecraft to explore Earth’s magnetopause and the magnetotail reconnection regions. Two orbital phases will be used: (1) 1.2 x 12 RE at 28° inclination with dayside apogee and (2) 1.2 x 25 RE at 10° inclination with nightside apogee. 3-D measurements of plasmas, energetic particles, electric and magnetic fields, and waves will be made at high time resolution (1 ms for fields, 25 ms for plasma electrons, and 150 ms for plasma ions) by the four spacecraft, which will be maintained in a tetrahedral-type configuration with spacings between 10 and 400 km, depending on the region under investigation. The MMS data, which will be assimilated into the latest models of magnetic reconnection, should lead to significant advances in our understanding of the role of reconnection by addressing the following questions:

  1. What kinetic processes are responsible for collisionless magnetic reconnection and how is reconnection initiated?
  2. Where does reconnection occur in the magnetopause and in the magnetotail, and what influences where it occurs?
  3. How does reconnection vary with time, and what factors influence its temporal behavior?
  4. How do flux transfer events and plasmoids/flux ropes form, and how do they evolve?