We’re all familiar with how the weather inside Earth’s atmosphere affects everyday life here on Earth. Our trusty meteorologists help us be prepared for weather’s ramifications. Most of us have learned that weather here on Earth comes directly from the Sun. 

Something that most of us are less familiar with is the weather beyond our atmosphere in outer space. Research into that field is about to blast off inside a NASA mission launching March 12 called the Magnetic Multiscale mission (MMS).

One of the physicists essential to the mission is West Virginia University’s Eberly College of Arts associate professor Paul Cassak. Cassak is a member of the MMS Theory and Modeling Team. Cassak is a plasma physicist. He and his team use computer models to simulate the conditions of weather in space to better understand them. The problem is, our knowledge of what’s happening at the small-scale of miles isn’t detailed enough to be able to predict space weather with the skill that meteorologists can predict Earth weather. 

NASA’s MMS mission intends to bridge that gap. Using MMS observations, higher resolution computer simulations will be possible for researchers like Cassak. 

The benefits of enhanced space weather predictions would mean less damage to infrastructure and electronics during severe solar storms impacting Earth. Examples of impacts include electrical grid failure, scrambled GPS signal and disruption of cellular communication worldwide. 

The MMS mission launches March 12 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3 p.m. It will take place over two-years. Four identical flying in pyramid formation, six miles apart, will conduct high resolution 3-dimensional research on magnetic reconnection. The mission contains 100 precision instruments in a 12,000 pound NASA-engineered spacecraft. Each of the four MMS spacecraft will be 94 feet tall and 369 feet wide, when fully extended.   

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