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designer: Tom Bridgman
published by the NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission
This visualization by the NASA Multiscale Magnetosphere mission (MMS) explains how plasma energy is transported in a type of wave in space known as a kinetic Alfvén wave. The theory behind Alfvén waves was presented more than 50 years ago but has only recently been proven, reshaping our understanding of how energy travels in plasma -- a fundamental state of matter composed of charged particles that exists throughout the universe. The visualization explores how Alfvén waves move through a plasma, where electrons traveling at just the right speed get captured in weak spots of the wave's magnetic field.

The MMS mission was launched in 2015 and consists of four spacecraft flying in a pyramid structure to better obtain 3-dimensional data structures of magnetic field events. The first capture of a reconnection event was in 2016.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Instrumentation
= Detectors
- Solar System
= Earth
- The Sun
= Magnetic Activity
Electricity & Magnetism
- Magnetic Fields and Forces
= Magnetic Fields
Modern Physics
- Plasma Physics
Other Sciences
- Geoscience
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Upper Undergraduate
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
This material is released into the Public Domain.
magnetic field energy, magnetosphere, plasma energy, solar wind
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 14, 2022 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
March 22, 2022 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 14, 2021

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • Forces that act at a distance (electric, magnetic, and gravitational) can be explained by fields that extend through space and can be mapped by their effect on a test object (a charged object, or a ball, respectively). (6-8)
  • Forces at a distance are explained by fields (gravitational, electric, and magnetic) permeating space that can transfer energy through space. Magnets or electric currents cause magnetic fields; electric charges or changing magnetic fields cause electric fields. (9-12)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
  • Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems. (9-12)
Relationship Between Energy and Forces (PS3.C)
  • When two objects interacting through a field change relative position, the energy stored in the field is changed. (9-12)
Energy in Chemical Processes (PS3.D)
  • Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission, Greenbelt, 2018), WWW Document, (https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618).
NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy (NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission, Greenbelt, 2018), <https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618>.
APA Format
NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy. (2021, December 14). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618
Chicago Format
NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission. NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy. Greenbelt: NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission, December 14, 2021. https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618 (accessed 27 September 2022).
MLA Format
NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy. Greenbelt: NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission, 2018. 14 Dec. 2021. 27 Sep. 2022 <https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy}, Publisher = {NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission}, Volume = {2022}, Number = {27 September 2022}, Month = {December 14, 2021}, Year = {2018} }
Refer Export Format

%T NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy %D December 14, 2021 %I NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission %C Greenbelt %U https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618 %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D December 14, 2021 %T NASA Visualizations: How Plasma Transports Energy %I NASA Magnetosphere Multiscale Mission %V 2022 %N 27 September 2022 %8 December 14, 2021 %9 text/html %U https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12618

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Citation Source Information

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