Image of IMAGE in space

Cracks in the Earth's Magnetic Field Discovered in Proton Aurora.


Immense cracks in Earth's magnetic field remain open for hours, allowing the solar wind to gush through and power stormy space weather, according to new observations from NASA's IMAGE spacecraft and the joint NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Cluster satellites.The cracks were previously detected, but researchers now know they can remain open for long periods, rather than opening and closing for just very brief intervals. This new discovery about how the Earth's magnetic shield is breached is expected to help space physicists give better estimates of the effects of severe space weather. IMAGE revealed an area almost the size of California in the arctic upper atmosphere (ionosphere) where a 75 megawatt "proton" aurora flared for hours. This aurora was energetic enough to power 75,000 homes.

(2003: Harald Frey, Tai Phan)

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Additional Information

Aurora - The lights often seen in the northern skies at night, which take the form of green, red or bluish clouds or curtains of light. Northern people have watched these in wonder for centuries. They are produced by currents of charged particles from distant regions of the magnetic field.

Magnetic Storm - A disturbance in Earth's magnetic field that can last from a few minutes to several days. Severe storms can cause compass needles to give the wrong navigation bearings. They signal the presence of powerful currents of charged particles flowing near Earth in space.

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Dr. S. Odenwald,, +1-301-286-6953
NSSDC, Mail Code 630, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771
NASA Approval: J. L. Green,
Rev. 1.0.0, 24 April 2003, EVB II