Magnetospheres

Magnetic reconnection in the Earh's magnetotail (ESA/ATG medialab)

The Earth's magnetosphere is formed as consequence of the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. The stress applied by the solar wind on the Earth's magnetic field results in an elongated night-side magnetosphere, called the magnetotail, with a cross tail current sheet centered in the midst of the plasma sheet that separates two domains of the oppositely directed magnetic fields. By different plasma processes, a significant amount of electromagnetic energy is dumped into the ionosphere and leads to the production of aurora. Such interaction between solar wind and planetary atmosphere forms the magnetosphere, the magnetotail and the ionosphere also at other planets.

The main task of the Magnetosphere Group is to study the fundamental plasma processes in the magnetosphere of Earth and other planets by the analysis of spacecraft data and empirical as well as theoretical modeling. For the data analysis, the main focus lies on the data obtained from missions where IWF contributed to building the instruments, such as Cluster, MMS, THEMIS, and Rosetta.

The overall research topics are (1) fundamental plasma physical phenomena such as current sheet, reconnection, and plasma instabilities and (2) coupling processes between the solar wind and the Earth’s/planetary magnetospheres and ionosphere.