The Invisible layer of defense- The Magnetosphere

Earth, our enchanting planet, as we know the earth has a solid iron core in its center. This core is constantly in motion. Since it is in motion, it generates a strong magnetic field around the earth. These magnetic field lines in the atmosphere are covered around the earth as the Magnetosphere. Does only earth have the magnetosphere? Absolutely not. Nearly every object, every star and almost every planet have this layer. We might wonder where this layer is located. This layer is located in the upper layer of the atmosphere. The ionosphere begins at a height of about 50 km above the surface, but it is most distinct and important above 80 km. In the upper regions of the ionosphere, beginning several hundred kilometers above Earth’s surface and extending tens of thousands of kilometers into space, is the magnetosphere. How do they look like?

As we know they are invisible to our naked eye. But various instruments detect these invisible fields of energy. The earth is protected with two layers of defense. Two magnetospheres. The upper magnetosphere and the lower magnetosphere. The upper layer is nearly 100 miles far from the lower layer. These magnetospheres protect the earth from the dangerous solar winds and inter-stellar winds. Due to the recent activities on the sun, a huge number of coronal holes are being formed. These coronal holes discharge a huge amount of solar flare into the solar system which travels into the interstellar space with great speeds. These solar winds contain a high number of heavily charged particles which excites a planet’s atmosphere causing a chain of collisions of ions in that planet’s atmosphere; the mars was once a planet with oceans and habitable land. During the early stage, a huge number of coronal blasts( also known as CME’s(Coronal Mass Ejections)) occurred which lead to a burst of enormous solar flares, which surged through the solar system with great velocities which contained highly excited particles which have wiped out the planet’s atmosphere. As of today, a huge number of coronal holes are again being formed, which one day may lead to a gigantic blast. Recent studies have shown that the upper layer of the magnetosphere had a cracked as it dealt with a high blast from the outer space. It is slowly being destroyed from inside and from the out. The effects of that can be seen on earth in form of increasing earthquakes, volcanic activities, and climate change. Once the lower magnetosphere is hit by solar winds and interstellar wind, it may no longer sustain. the gases in the atmosphere are blown out into space and the earth’s atmosphere would slowly start depleting. These solar wind have the capability to travel at speed’s equivalent to 2 million km/hr. Even now the earth is being constantly bombarded with these winds but in a weak manner.

Illustration of Magnetosheath layer around the earth.

Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft, also known as MMS (1) was launched by NASA in the year 2015 recently sent data back to the ground stations which made a new discovery on how the magnetic reconnection works.  Magnetic reconnection generally means breaking of two oppositely charged fields. When these opposite fields meet, they get separated and a stream of highly energetic particles are released. When these particles hit the poles of the earth, they lead to the formations of beautiful glow in the sky which we call as auroras. What’s so breathtaking about this news? The MMS  observed that these reconnections were occurring in the region of known as Magnetosheath; a boundary between the magnetosphere and solar winds. These observations made by MMS is leading scientists a clear understanding of the magnetosphere. Why is observing the magnetosphere important? As on earth we observe and predict the patterns of weather. The same goes with space, here we are observing the space weather. Last time a coronal blast took place, it led to a worldwide blackout of nearly all the electronic devices and power grids. This event took place on March 13th, 1989.     2

Generation of magnetic reconnections as observed by MMS in magnetosheath layer.

As we have engineered the world around us in the way any which any civilization couldn’t since the ancient times, it is time we observe the natural patterns and brace for the consequences for the future. Without this layer of the magnetosphere, our earth would just be a roasted rock orbiting a hot sun in a galaxy which would have remained unknown. We take almost everything for granted and think this life is low; but in reality many invisible forces, from the planets which are stopping the asteroids falling on us to the air that we breathe, everything is maintaining a unique perfect balance to keep this piece of life on earth alive.

References:

  1. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mms/index.html
  2. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/sun_darkness.html

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