The Magnetospheric Multiscale MMS mission has spent the past four years using high-resolution tools to see what other spaceships cannot do. MMS recently completed the first high-resolution interplanetary shock measurement.
This shock, which consists of particles and electromagnetic waves, is triggered by the sun. They provide the ideal test site to familiarize yourself with the larger universal phenomenon.
However, when measuring interplanetary shocks, you must be in the right place at the right time. That’s how the MMS spacecraft does it.
An interplanetary shock is a type of shock in which particles transfer energy through the electromagnetic field instead of bouncing off one another directly. These collision-free vibrations occur throughout the universe, including in supernova black holes and distant stars. MMS investigates shocks without collisions around the world to get a better understanding of shocks in the universe.
Interplanetary shocks begin in the direction of the sun, which continuously releases the flow of charged particles called the solar wind.
The solar wind usually comes in two ways slowly and quickly. When a fast solar wind exceeds a slower current, it creates shock waves, just as a boat that moves across a river creates waves. The waves then spread to the solar system.
MMS can measure shocks thanks to fast devices and unmatched high resolution. One of the tools on the MMS board is quick plasma testing.
With this device, ions and electrons can be measured up to 6 times per second around the spacecraft. Because high-speed shock waves can cross the spacecraft in just half a second, this high speed scan is very important for capturing shock.
Looking at data from January 8, scientists discovered the accumulation of ions from the solar wind. Shortly thereafter, they saw that the second group of ions produced by the ions already existed in the area, which had recovered from the shock as it passed. In analyzing this second population, scientists found evidence of the energy transfer theory that was first introduced in the 1980s.
MMS consists of four identical spacecraft that fly in solid formations that allow mapping of 3D space. Because the four MMS spacecraft are only 12 miles away at the time of the collision and not hundreds of miles away, scientists, like previous spacecraft, can see small, large, and irregular models in shocks.
Further Reading: Nasa goddard