Investigation of the interactions of solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere during polar reversals via computational plasma modeling and Planeterrella experiments

SCIENCE

Autum Fox

The focus of this proposal is to modify and use the Compact Plasma Science Platform (CPSP) Planeterrella at the UAA Plasma Lab to experimentally study interactions between solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere, during polar reversals of the magnetosphere. To accomplish this, the Planeterrella will have the magnet in one of its spherical electrodes modified so that it can reverse orientation and vary in strength. This modification will also increase the utility of the Planeterrella as a tool for further experiments, and for public demonstrations of plasma science. The investigation will be extended by computer simulation through plasma fluid modeling in COMSOL and hybrid particle-in-cell/fluid plasma modeling in VSim as befits the various regimes of the experiment. The goal for the design of the CPSP Planeterrella is a portable plasma discharge chamber that is accessible and allows for the viewing of plasma activity. These design choices make the device a good tool for both experiments in plasma science and an aid in the visualization of plasma phenomena and related activity for students and the public. The Planeterrella associated with the UAA Plasma Lab was constructed in 2016 and upgraded in 2018 to increase its capabilities. Both the creation and modifications of the Planeterrella device were funded by previous Alaska Space Grant Undergraduate Fellowships.

Profile

Name: Autumn Fox, Undergraduate Student

Institution: University of Alaska Anchorage

Major: Geological Sciences

Mentor: Nathanial Hicks, nkhicks@alaska.edu

Award: Apprenticeship

Funding Period: 2021 to 2022