Date of Award

Spring 2022

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Charles J Farrugia

Second Advisor

Amy Keesee

Third Advisor

Elena Long


The Earth's magnetic field has a complex and dynamic relationship with the greater solar system. The solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field extend the influence of the Sun's atmosphere to the orbit of Earth and well beyond, carrying charged particles in a constant stream of varying density and velocity. These solar influences carry energy which interacts with every object they encounter, including the Earth and its magnetic field.

The primary mechanism for the energetic interaction and exchange of energy between the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind is called Magnetic Reconnection, a process by which two opposing magnetic fields may cancel each other in a limited region and allow the plasma restrained by each to cross the boundary between magnetic fields and interact. The effects of this interactions are as varied as they are wonderful, including the aurora, intercontinental radio communications, and threats to orbiting satellites. As such, understanding magnetic reconnection and its effects is an important task for space science research.

This work is devoted to characterizing and identifying magnetic reconnection region in one part of the Earth's magnetosphere, the magnetotail, as well as the conditions in the magnetotail necessary for reconnection to begin. This is done through the analysis of data from the Magnetospheric Multi-Scale Mission, a fleet of four identical orbiting observatories designed specifically to study reconnection. Methods to identify reconnection derived from historical assumptions as well relatively new techniques, so-called Scalar Parameters, are employed and compared. Finally, a combination of these methods is brought to bear in an attempt to understand why magnetic reconnection in the magnetotail occurs more often in some locations than others.