Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Boundary Between Earth’s Magnetic Field and Sun’s Solar Wind Riddled with "Swiss Cheese" Holes


Aurora Australis--the Southern Lights--over the geodesic dome at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The aluminum dome has housed the main station buildings since the 1970s. The Amundsen-Scott station is one of three United States research stations on Antarctica. The National Science Foundation operates them all.

The Aurora Australis is the atmospheric phenomenon known familiarly as the Southern Lights. Like its more familiar counterpart, the Aurora Borealis--or Northern Lights, the phenomenon is caused by the solar wind passing through the upper atmosphere. But the Aurora Australis is far less frequently observed because so few people live in Antarctica during the austral winter.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Berry, National Science Foundation

Magnetic fields explosively release energy in events throughout the universe, from experiments conducted in laboratories to huge outbursts within galaxies. On the Sun, these magnetic explosions are responsible for solar flares and ejections of material from the Sun’s corona.

Similar events associated with Earth’s magnetic field drive magnetic storms, and the dramatic brightening and expansion of the northern and southern lights, the aurora borealis and aurora australis. The reconnection of twisted and complex lines of magnetic force relates these phenomena to each other.

Scientists have long debated whether the fast release of energy that occurs during "magnetic reconnection" is a smooth or turbulent process. Scientists funded by NSF have now used large-scale computer simulations, combined with direct observations from satellites, to show that the energy release is likely the result of turbulent processes.

This knowledge may explain the effect of solar storms on Earth, from interruptions of satellite orbits to electrical outages in cities and towns.

According to recent research results by James Drake at the University of Maryland in College Park and other scientists, the intense electric currents generated during magnetic reconnection produce "electron holes," regions where electrons are sparse.

Satellite observations have shown that the boundary between Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind (known as the magnetopause) is riddled like Swiss cheese, with holes that may reach several miles in diameter. The holes move in the opposite direction of the prevailing electric current at speeds that can be faster than 1,000 miles per second, or 4 million miles per hour.

Says Kile Baker, program director in NSF’s division of atmospheric sciences, which funded the research, "The birth and death of these electron ’holes,’ and the intense electric fields associated with them, lead to strong electron scattering and energizing."

An understanding of this process is critical to explaining why magnetic explosions in space release energy so quickly, and so explosively, he adds.

Cheryl Dybas | NSF

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>