EGU23-9043, updated on 08 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Plasma Observatory ESA M7 candidate mission: unveiling plasma energization and energy transport through multiscale observations

Maria Federica Marcucci1, Alessandro Retinò2, Malcolm Dunlop3, Colin Forsyth4, Yuri Khotyaintsev5, Olivier Le Contel6, Ian Mann7, Rumi Nakamura8, Minna Palmroth9, Ferdinand Plaschke10, Jan Soucek11, Masatoshi Yamauchi12, Andris Vaivads13, Francesco Valentini14, and the Plasma Observatory Team*
Maria Federica Marcucci et al.
  • 1INAF, IAPS, Roma, Italy (
  • 2LPP, Paris,France (
  • 3RAL, Didcot, United Kingdom (
  • 4UCL, London, United Kingdom (
  • 5IRF, Uppsala, Sweden (
  • 6LPP, Paris,France (
  • 7University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada (
  • 8IWF-OEAW, Gratz, Austria (
  • 9University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland (
  • 10Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany (
  • 11IAP, Prague, Czech Republic (
  • 12IRF, Uppsala, Sweden (
  • 13KTH, Stockholm, Sweden (
  • 14Università della Calabria, Cosenza, Italy (
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

The Earth's Magnetospheric System is the complex and highly dynamic environment in near-Earth space where plasma gets actively energized and transport of large amounts of energy occurs, due to the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth's magnetic field. Understanding plasma energization and energy transport is an open challenge of space plasma physics, with important implications for space weather science as well as for the understanding of distant astrophysical plasmas. Plasma energization and energy transport are related to fundamental processes such as shocks, magnetic reconnection, turbulence and waves, plasma jets and instabilities, which are at the core of the current space plasma physics research. ESA/Cluster and NASA/MMS four-point constellations, as well as the large-scale multipoint mission NASA/THEMIS, have greatly improved over the last two decades our understanding of plasma processes at individual scales compared to earlier single-point measurements. Despite the large amount of available observations, we still do not fully understand the physical mechanisms which give rise to plasma energization and energy transport. The reason is that the fundamental physical processes governing plasma energization and energy transport operate across multiple scales ranging from the large fluid to the smaller kinetic scales. Here we present the Plasma Observatory (PO) multiscale mission concept which is tailored to study plasma energization and energy transport within the Earth's Magnetospheric System. PO baseline is comprised of one mothercraft (MSC) and six identical smallsat daughtercraft (DSC) in an HEO 8 RE X 18 RE orbit, covering all the key regions of the Magnetospheric System where strong energization and transport occur: the foreshock, bow shock, magnetosheath, magnetopause, magnetotail current sheet, and the transition region. MSC payload provides a complete characterization of electromagnetic fields and plasma particles in a single point with time resolution sufficient to resolve kinetic physics at sub-ion scales. The DSCs have identical payload which is much simpler than on the MSC, yet giving a full characterization of the plasma at the ion and fluid scales. Going beyond Cluster, THEMIS and MMS, PO will permit us to resolve for the first time the coupling between ion and fluid scales as well as the non-planarity and non-stationarity of plasma structures at those scales.  PO is one of the five ESA M7 candidates to be launched around 2037 and is currently undergoing a competitive Phase 0 at ESA for further downselection to Phase A at the end of 2023.

Plasma Observatory Team:

T. Amano, V. Angelopoulos, S. Bale, M. Berthomier, R. D'Amicis, J. De Keyser, A. Dimmock, M. Franz, H. Fu, A. Galli, K. Kauristie, L. Kistler, M. Kretzschmar, H. Kucharek, K. Issautier, B. Lavraud, L. Matteini, K. McWilliams, M. Maksimovic, E. Panov, O. Pezzi, H. Rothkaehl, Y. Saito, M. Steller, R. Vainio, R. F. Wimmer-Schweingruber and PO Science Team

How to cite: Marcucci, M. F., Retinò, A., Dunlop, M., Forsyth, C., Khotyaintsev, Y., Le Contel, O., Mann, I., Nakamura, R., Palmroth, M., Plaschke, F., Soucek, J., Yamauchi, M., Vaivads, A., and Valentini, F. and the Plasma Observatory Team: Plasma Observatory ESA M7 candidate mission: unveiling plasma energization and energy transport through multiscale observations, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-9043,, 2023.