My field explodes
"New discoveries about magnetic field lines and the first-ever direct observation of their reconnection in space are offering hope that scientists will learn how to unlock fusion power as an energy source in the future.
"The reconnection processes in the [Earth's] magnetosphere and in fusion devices are the same animal," said James Drake, a University of Maryland physicist.
Space contains magnetic fields that direct the flow of plasma, an energetic fourth state of matter consisting of positive ions and electrons. The plasma particles normally follow the paths of the magnetic field lines like streams of cars following highways.
Magnetic reconnection can release that stored energy when two magnetic field lines bend towards each other and fuse to create new field lines. The effect is not unlike an earthquake forcibly realigning parallel highways into perpendicular routes and channeling cars along the newly created paths. Although some released plasma energy travels in a straight line — called a super-Alfvenic electron jet — other plasma particles fan out as though escaping the opening of a trumpet."
Staff Writer Jeremy Hsu