Geospace Physics Laboratory
Sciences and Exploration Directorate - NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

GPL Research

GPL Research

Located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Suburban Maryland, USA, the Geospace Physics Laboratory is a component of Goddard's Heliophysics Science Division. This Laboratory leads the exploration and study of the heliosphere through the conception and development of missions designed to observe its origins, evolution, and interactions with the Earth, other planets, and the interstellar medium.

The Geospace Physics Laboratory conceives and executes investigations of the heliosphere by developing ever more capable instrumentation and theoretical models of heliospheric processes, over time scales up to the lifetime of the solar system. It establishes partnerships throughout the international science community, providing data access, analysis tools, and user support.

Strategic Priorities

  • All fundamental plasma processes in the Geospace environment and of planetary atmospheres
  • Understanding of the reconnection process
  • Radiation belt modeling and acceleration and loss of energetic particles in the Earth’s magnetosphere
  • Wave-particle interactions and their contribution to energization and loss of particles
  • Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere coupling
  • Global Hall MHD of planetary magnetospheres
  • Miniaturization of plasma instruments and of magnetometers
  • Develop new mission concepts for the Geospace Environment

Development Areas and Core Activities

  • Fast Plasma Instrument
  • Ion Mass Spectrometer
  • Miniaturization of ESAs (Electrostatic Analyzers)
  • Miniaturization of mass spectrometers
  • Cubesat magnetometers
  • Ionospheric Sounding
  • Comparative planetary magnetospheres modeling
  • Hall MHD modeling of magnetospheres
  • Ion Outflows modeling
  • CIMI: coupled global MHD-ring current – radiation belts – ionosphere modeling
  • R&A
  • Large modeling efforts
  • VWO

Current Flight Missions

  • Van Allen Probes
  • GREECE (rocket mission)

Flight Missions In Development

  • MMS
  • Exos (Cubesat)
  • Dellingr (Cubesat)
  • Core Activities

MMS will reveal the fundamental physics of magnetic reconnection

MMS and reconnection
The GSFC MMS Fast Plasma Investigation (FPI) instrument will have the resolution to measure what has, until now, been seen only through simulation: magnetic reconnection occurring at the fundamental particle level. The FPI DES (Dual Electron Spectrometer) will be the first particle instrument capable of directly observing the electron scale process that drives explosive reconnection events like solar flares and magnetospheric substorms. John Dorelli (673) and the MMS/FPI Team have simulated reconnection at the basic particle level (Hesse et al. 2013). This has allowed them to determine what MMS would observe as it passes through one of these regions.

Magnetic Reconnection at Ganymede

Recent simulations of Ganymede’s magnetosphere -- the first to include ion scale magnetic reconnection physics (left panel) -- have changed our basic understanding of plasma convection and field-aligned current generation in the moon’s magnetosphere.

Reconnection at Ganymede

The 673 team is currently exploring the role these new field-aligned currents play in Ganymede’s aurora as observed by Hubble (right panel).