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3D Printing the Magnetosphere
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  • Laura Brandt,
  • Elizabeth MacDonald,
  • Lani Sasser,
  • James Haas,
  • Leslie Garrison
Laura Brandt

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Elizabeth MacDonald
New Mexico Consortium, Aurorasaurus
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Lani Sasser
ADNET Systems Inc. Greenbelt
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James Haas
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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Leslie Garrison
ADNET Systems Inc. Greenbelt
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The 3D Printed Magnetosphere Project is a collaboration between Aurorasaurus and the NASA STEAM Innovation Lab, both partners of the NASA Space Science Education Consortium (NSSEC). The Earth’s magnetosphere is a complex, multifaceted, and intangible system that poses unique challenges to science communication and education. Two-dimensional diagrams inherently oversimplify its structure and processes, leading to misunderstood or incomplete understandings of the physics involved. In addition, diagrams lack tactile accessibility, excluding some learners. While three-dimensional tactile models with nested components are classic tools for illustrating biological and geophysical concepts, similar models have not yet been created for the magnetosphere. This project is an effort to create the first physical, open-source, customizable, three-dimensional, and 3D-printed model of the magnetosphere. We provide a NASA STEAM Lab Exploration Idea Profile detailing the current scope and future potential for the product. Our preliminary model is intended to provide a starting template that illustrates the following basic structures: the magnetosheath; an equatorial cross-section; a torus representing the outer radiation belt; the ring current; and Earth, including the crust, mantles, core, and aurora. The magnetosheath will be hinged and open on the x-axis like a case or shell, revealing the other structures nested inside. The components will be removable, and the radiation belt and Earth will have the capability of opening to reveal interior structures. The printable model will be shared with the Maker community, enabling customization to illustrate specific concepts, add classroom features, and provide tactile accessibility for learners with low vision. In addition, crowdsourced expertise from the space physics and Maker communities will contribute greatly to further refinements. This presentation will provide an overview of the model and explore its potential applications. These could include better contextualizing not only physics concepts, but missions like the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) launched in 2015 to study the Earth’s magnetosphere, using four identical spacecraft flying in a tetrahedral formation. It is currently exploring magnetic reconnection, one of the mechanisms that causes aurora.