The transport of plasma across magnetic field boundaries is a problem of fundamental importance for the plasma physics community and in the field of space physics. The goals of this project are to identify and quantify (1) the plasma transport into the magnetosphere particularly for northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), (2) the relative role of reconnection and diffusion associated with nonlinear Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) modes, (3) the coupling between KH instability and kinetic Alfven waves (KAWs), and (4) the influence of turbulence present in the magnetosheath on the magnetosphere.
The project will address fundamental plasma science questions such as how mass, momentum, and energy enter the magnetosphere due to magnetic reconnection, wave-induced reconnection, and wave induced transport. The study addresses five elements of NSF-DOE Partnership in Basic Plasma Science and Engineering: (1) Chaos, Turbulence and Structure in Plasmas; (2) Flows in Plasmas, their Interaction and Interpenetration; (3) Plasmas in Magnetic Fields; (4) Advanced Methods for Plasma Modeling and Simulation; and (5) Astrophysical and Solar Plasmas, Plasmas in Interplanetary Space, Earth and Other Planetary Magnetospheres and Atmospheres.
The project also fits into central goals of the NSF-DOE program by including undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate training and research. Undergraduate physics students will participate through Summer Internships at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and through two DOE programs at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). An important aspect of the research is the postdoctoral position which will actually carry out much of the research at UAF and PPPL and will participate in training undergraduate students. Results from this research will be incorporated both into the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. The physics department at UAF has just revised the undergraduate curriculum to include a class specifically designed to discuss ongoing research. Research results are important to and will be integrated in various graduate classes (Space Physics, Magnetospheric Physics, Numerical Simulation). This approach provides a seamless integration of fundamental research with all levels of higher education. The University of Alaska at Fairbanks has documented success in attracting minority and Alaskan native students and their participation in corresponding outreach programs.