Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cluster and Double Star witness a new facet of Earth’s magnetic behaviour

31.03.2006


Five spacecraft from two ESA missions unexpectedly found themselves engulfed by waves of electrical and magnetic energy as they travelled through Earth’s night-time shadow on 5 August 2004.



The data collected by the spacecraft are giving scientists an important clue to the effects of ’space weather’ on Earth’s magnetic field.

Shortly after 15:34 CEST, something set the tail of Earth’s natural cloak of magnetism oscillating. "It was like the waves created by a boat travelling across a lake," says Dr Tielong Zhang of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Graz.


Only in this case, the identity of the ’boat’ is unknown. It might be the fast flow of particles often observed in the central part of the magnetotail. Whatever it was produced waves that travelled from the centre of the tail to its outer edges.

The five spacecraft caught in this event were the four units of ESA’s Cluster mission and the first unit of the joint CNSA/ESA mission Double Star. The Cluster quartet fly in formation, passing through Earth’s magnetotail at distances of between 16 and 19 times Earth’s radius.

One of the two spacecraft of Double Star, the TC-1 spacecraft, orbits at between 10 and 13 Earth radii. All five spacecraft are designed to collect data on the magnetic bubble surrounding our planet, called the ’magnetosphere’.

Earth’s magnetic field is generated deep inside the planet and rises into space where it constantly interacts with the solar wind, a perpetual stream of electrically charged particles released by the Sun.

The stream pulls Earth’s magnetic field into a tail that stretches behind the planet for tens of thousands of kilometres. Gusts and storms in the solar wind are known as ’space weather’ and can make Earth’s magnetic field quake.

On 5 August 2004, Cluster and Double Star satellites found themselves in the right place at the right time. The readings showed that the oscillations took place simultaneously across an area over 30 000 km in length. This is the first time that the true extent of the oscillations has been revealed.

Previous Cluster measurements, before the launch of Double Star, could only reveal the movement across a restricted location surrounded by the four satellites.

Understanding the way Earth’s magnetic field interacts with the solar wind is the space-age equivalent of a meteorologist investigating the way a mountain range disturbs airflow, creating weather systems.

In the case of space weather, storms consist of fluctuating magnetic and electrical fields that can damage satellites and pose health risks to astronauts. If we are to fully exploit the potential of space, we have to understand the effects of space weather and be able to predict them. That’s where missions like Cluster and Double Star come in.

"By studying the August oscillations, we may be able to develop a unifying theory for all the various motions of the magnetotail," says Zhang, who is heading the investigation into what happened that day.

Philippe Escoubet | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM92N59CLE_index_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>