NASA Records Magnetic Explosions Above Earth

Posted: May 13 2016, 7:51am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


NASA Records Magnetic Explosions Above Earth
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Space might look like it is pretty plain and unchanging, but there is actually a ton going on up there. The skies are filled with magnetic activity thanks to magnetic fields. Earth is in one called the magnetosphere, which is frequently hit by solar winds caused by the Sun. These winds also have magnetic charge and produce something scientists call "magnetic reconnection" high above the Earth's surface. In 2015, NASA launch spacecrafts, known as the MMS, so that they could record these transactions.

Now they are publishing the results in Science and through the NASA website.

Recordings from a flyby last October shows that when two magnetic fields collide, electrons shoot out in straight lines, speeding through boundaries that would have contained them. Once these electrons are free, they ultimately perform a U-turn in response to new magnetic fields they hit.

The quality of data that we got from the MMS is unprecedented. Scientists have used satellites before to observe this occurrence, but NASA explains that it was like "seeing debris flung out from a tornado, but never seeing the storm itself."

See the video below for an illustration:

With MMS, researchers can sail into the heart of the storm.

"The decades-old mystery is what do the electrons do, and how do the two magnetic fields interconnect," Jim Burch, lead author of the Science paper and principal investigator for MMS at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said. "Satellite measurements of electrons have been too slow by a factor of 100 to sample the magnetic reconnection region. The precision and speed of the MMS measurements, however, opened up a new window on the universe, a new 'microscope' to see reconnection."

Magnetic reconnection converts the magnetic energy into thermal or kinetic energy. That then impacts the "space weather" found on Earth's atmosphere.

NASA is hoping to take this information and build better machines and ships for space. 

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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