LWS TR&T Focus Teams:
Solar wind plasma entry and transport in the magnetosphere
Team Chair: Michelle Thomsen
Target description: Prolonged exposure to suprathermal magnetospheric plasmas has deleterious effects upon spacecraft. Examples include leakage, sputtering, and spacecraft surface charging. Determining the characteristics of the plasma population within the magnetosphere as a function of location, geomagnetic activity, solar wind conditions, and solar cycle is, therefore, a question of fundamental importance to spacecraft designers. Predicting the characteristics of the particle population requires knowledge of the locations and mechanisms by which solar wind plasma enters the magnetosphere, the processes by which plasma is energized and transported, and the interactions by which plasma is lost.
Goals and measures of success: The ultimate objective of this targeted research area is a global model for the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction capable of accurately predicting the plasma environment within the Earth's inner magnetosphere (R < 10 RE) as a function of prevailing solar wind conditions. Steps towards this goal include (1) development of empirical models for the geospace plasma as a function of solar wind conditions, geomagnetic activity, and solar cycle; (2) models that incorporate the fundamental physics describing plasma entry at the magnetopause and energization/transport within the magnetosphere models; (3) validation of the simulations against a variety of observational case studies and empirical models; and (4) development of a quantitative understanding of the relative roles of solar wind and ionospheric plasma sources in populating the magnetosphere.
Types of solicited investigations: Proposals that address this topic should address the mechanisms by which plasma crosses the magnetopause, the means by which plasma is energized and transported to the inner magnetospheric regions relevant to spacecraft operations, and the characteristics of the plasma within the magnetosphere. The research objectives of proposals include investigations that predict and quantify: (1) the amount of solar wind plasma entering the magnetosphere as a function of location on the magnetopause; (2) the processes by which plasma is transported from the magnetopause into the magnetosphere to form the plasma sheet; and (3) the mechanisms by which plasma is injected into the inner magnetosphere for different solar wind, geomagnetic, and solar cycle conditions.