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PRESTISSIMO Report Summary

Project ID: 682068
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PRESTISSIMO (Plasma Reconnection, Shocks and Turbulence in Solar System Interactions: Modelling and Observations)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

This project combines the forefront space physics with top-tier high performance computing. Three phenomena are above others in importance in explaining plasma behaviour in the Solar–Terrestrial system, laboratories, fusion devices, and astrophysical domains: 1) magnetic reconnection enabling energy and mass transfer between magnetic domains, 2) collisionless shocks forming due to supersonic relative flow speeds between plasmas, and 3) particle acceleration associated with both. These processes are critical in understanding the scientific foundation of space weather, i.e., harmful effects caused by enhanced radiation and dynamical processes that endanger space- and ground-based technological systems or human life. Space weather forecasts require physics- based models; however, to date only simple plasma descriptions have been used in the global context. We have developed the first 6-dimensional global magnetospheric kinetic simulation in the world, Vlasiator, promising a grand leap both in understanding fundamental space plasma physics, and in improving the accuracy of present space weather models. Combining the unique Vlasiator with newest spacecraft data, local kinetic physics can be interpreted in global context in a ground-breaking fashion. The overall objectives are to investigate
- Near-Earth reconnection, 

- Ion-scale phenomena in the near-Earth shocks, 

- Particle acceleration by shocks and reconnection, 

- Inner magnetospheric wave-particle processes, and the consequent particle precipitation into the ionosphere. 

The project includes four work packages (WP). The first package develops Vlasiator used in the other WPs. WP2 investigates local physics in small scales, and compares to individual in situ observations. WP2 leads to a better understanding of physical processes and scenarios in WP3, taking place in a larger area and requiring global modelling and observations from multiple spacecraft and measurement ar¬rays. The detailed physical and system-level understanding in WP2 and WP3 allows a better description of space weather, better understanding of solar forcing on climate and plasma physics in universal setups, better re¬qui¬re¬ments for instruments and missions, and better HPC techniques, leading to well-described impacts. In WP4 we al¬so make it easy for others to multiply physical understanding in topics we cover but which are not our primary goals.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work in WP1 (Development) has begun, with the implementation of a test electron propagator and the electron pressure gradient term in the field solver's Ohm's law. Adaptive mesh refinement and heterogeneous platform support have been planned and prototyping has been undertaken. The work performed is on target.

WP2 on small-scale physics has also been started. A study of asymmetric dayside reconnection by S. Hoilijoki et al. was under review before 31.12.2016, and is now published (2017). Studies of the symmetric tail reconnection and of the acceleration energies in reconnection and at the shock are under way. Local simulations to help understanding foreshock velocity distribution functions in wave interactions have been performed by Y. Pfau-Kempf. The work is on target.

As part of WP3 on large-scale physics, the study led by M. Palmroth on tail reconnection and substorm onset is currently in peer-review in Nature. The foreshock–magnetosheath interaction is investigated in the paper published by S. Hoilijoki et al. in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics) (doi:10.1002/2015JA022026). The work is on target.

WP4 (Impact) current activities include the planning of the first Vlasiator workshop (Aug 2017), the expansion of the community to solar wind and fusion modelling, the preparation of a remote web-based data distribution service, as well as in-kind collaboration with the ESA THOR mission team and discussions with the 24/7 space weather service at FMI. The work is on target.

Overarching all work packages, the dissertation of Y. Pfau-Kempf was defended successfully on December 1st, 2016. It includes four papers, the latest having been published in Annales Geophysicae in November 2016 (doi:10.5194/angeo-34-943-2016).

The individual items of the activity plan due by 2017/12/31 but not started during the reporting period are scheduled and on track to be addressed by the due date. No significant delays are expected. Overall, the work is in accordance with Annex 1 and we are on schedule.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The impacts of the project are categorised in four main types, by 1) addressing the absolute key questions in solar system plas¬ma physics, 2) significantly aiding adjacent fields, 3) contributing to high-level technological innovations, and 4) providing a much improved scientific basis for societal challenges.

On 1 (key questions), all the published papers during the period concern new phenomena that are not observed before, and therefore are clearly beyond state of the art. There is one paper in review in the main Nature, concerning one of the most central questions in space physics.

On 2) (adjacent fields), we have started a dialogue with the fusion and astrophysics community. Vlasiator has been reviewed in terms of two different fusion setups, and the results look promising. One proposal utilizing Vlasiator in fusion was submitted in fall 2016 by our collaborator (results pending).

On 3) (technical innovations), Vlasiator is a partner code for Intel and Nvidia, and Vlasiator has participated two hackathons within these industry partners. Especially the parallelization techniques in use are technical innovations for the high performance community.

On 4) (societal challenges), the project team has continuously consulted the Finnish Meteorological Institute Space weather 24/7 service about space physics. Vlasiator has also been presented widely in the Finnish media, drawing attention to space weather in general. M Palmroth is a wanted speaker in this context, both in public lectures and in media in general.
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