The physics of energy transfer in magnetic reconnection

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics


Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental plasma process that plays a key role in a number of astrophysical systems. For example, it controls the onset and evolution of solar flares, and it also controls the manner in which plasma emitted by the Sun (the solar wind) interacts with the Earth's magnetic field in space (the magnetosphere). The goal of this PhD project is to use new high-resolution experimental observations of magnetic reconnection in space to explain how it processes and converts energy into different forms. A major unsolved question is the way in which turbulent energy can be dissipated by magnetic reconnection at small scales. This is linked to the more general question of understanding how precisely magnetic reconnection converts energy in astrophysical and space plasmas, which is still not understood even after several decades of study.

Measurements made in situ by satellites both in near Earth space and in the solar wind are one of the best ways to understand how this plasma process works. Reconnection is the target of the Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) mission, a multi-satellite NASA mission which launched in 2015. It is also highly relevant to the science goals of Parker Solar Probe (PSP, launch 2018) and Solar Orbiter (SO, launch 2020). Imperial is an active member of all three missions (with Magnetometer PI role on Solar Orbiter), and is heavily involved in the activities of MMS and ongoing studies that are maximising the science output of the mission.

The goal of this PhD project is to use new high-resolution MMS observations of reconnection, augmented by PSP and SO as data becomes available, to answer these questions of how reconnection processes and converts energy into different forms.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/S505432/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022
2119006 Studentship ST/S505432/1 01/10/2018 31/03/2022 Sadie Robertson