Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society. The Decadal Survey in Solar and Space Physics. Space Studies Board ∙ Division. National Research Council; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; Space Studies Board; Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board; Committee on a Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics) National Research Council. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Requested by NASA and the National Science Foundation, this “decadal survey” follows the NRC's previous survey in solar and space physics, “The Sun to the.


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Standard image High-resolution image Export PowerPoint slide Perhaps the most pervasive and fundamental plasma physical process operating in astrophysical systems is magnetic reconnection Burch and Drake As shown solar and space physics figure 5 above, reconnection is the mechanism by which magnetized plasmas reconfigure themselves and is a principal mechanism for converting stored magnetic energy into heated plasmas.


Ultimately, reconnection is responsible for such phenomena as solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the Sun and for powerful auroral displays in the Earth's magnetosphere. Understanding in physical detail how reconnection works in a collisionless plasma has been one of solar and space physics longstanding problems in both solar physics and in magnetospheric research.

Figure 8 a shows in a schematic way how magnetic field lines shown as the dashed lines with black arrowheads can be broken and then reconnected in a very confined volume of space.


Plasmas can be accelerated in such a reconnection site see figure 5 to large fractions of the local Alfven speed due to the 'slingshot' kind of reconfiguration of magnetic field lines.

This jetting action can occur in the rather broad region shown as the light blue box in figure 8 a. This is solar and space physics as the 'ion diffusion' region and is the volume in which plasma ions become demagnetized and their orderly gyromotion breaks down Burch and Drake However, active ongoing space research in recent years has shown that the actual breaking of magnetic flux tubes must involve effects on the electron gyroscale shown by the pink box in solar and space physics 8 a.

Plasma physics and the – decadal survey in solar and space physics - IOPscience

This is the so-called 'electron diffusion' region and it can be a volume of just a few tens of kilometers solar and space physics scale size in typical magnetospheric plasmas.

As indicated schematically in figure 8 ato probe reconnection at the electron gyroscale, a constellation of spacecraft must fly just a few tens of kilometers apart in an orderly and prescribed formation Burch et al The four-spacecraft magnetospheric multiscale MMS mission is targeted to resolve fundamental questions regarding the physics of magnetic reconnection.

The nominal configuration of the MMS spacecraft during transit of magnetopause and magnetotail current layers is shown to scale with the key physical scale lengths. This spacecraft mission is comprised of four identical satellites with a full suite of solar and space physics, wave, and fields experiments Burch et al As shown in the artist's concept of figure 8 bthe four satellites solar and space physics fly in a tetrahedral arrangement so as to encompass the actual reconnection 'neutral line' and can examine the magnetic reconnection precisely on the electron scales required both spatially and temporally.

The data from MMS are capable of providing deep insight into solar and space physics reconnection phenomena and are already shedding new light on this key plasma process. To complete our very brief summary of recent progress in space physics research, it is useful to note that one of the least studied parts of the Sun—Earth system has been the region just a few hundred kilometers above our heads.

Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society | The National Academies Press

This understudied region is the upper part of Earth's atmosphere known as the ionosphere. It is a key region where the neutral atmosphere of Earth wanes and where solar and space physics magnetospheric domain of the Earth holds sway.

Solar and space physics research has shown that forcing of the ionosphere by solar influences from aboveas well as terrestrial forcing from below due to terrestrial weather effects, can produce huge effects on the ionosphere.

Figure 9 shows a schematic diagram that illustrates the possibilities of studying solar influences as well as the meteorological driving of the ionosphere system. The goal of this research is to measure the composition, temperature, and winds across the ionospheric domain.


This will permit deeper understanding of the relative roles of plasma upwelling, advection, and thermal expansion in solar and space physics the latitudinal and temporal evolution of the ionosphere. This program should take some key initial steps as outlined in figure 9 to assess ionospheric spatial and temporal forcings.

ARCHIVE of Standing Committee on Solar and Space Physics 3/17

Schematic diagrams showing the effects of lower atmospheric processes on conditions in space, characterizing how the energy and momentum carried into this region by atmospheric waves and tides interact and compete with solar and magnetospheric drivers.

Spatial solar and space physics temporal resolution of the wave inputs is accomplished by using a high-inclination, space-based platform in low-Earth orbit. It will provide a very capable Earth-viewing instrument flying solar and space physics a geostationary-orbit communication satellite see Eastes et al

  • A Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics)
  • Committee On Solar And Space Physics | The National Academies Press
  • Plasma physics and the 2013–2022 decadal survey in solar and space physics

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