Largest Tear in the Earth's Magnetic Field

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The magnetic field that protects the Earth from the sun's violent solar storms has seen the largest breach yet. Based on discoveries last summer by Themis, a fleet of five small NASA satellites, scientists found a 66,400-km-thick layer of solar particles to have entered the Earth's upper atmosphere. Data from Themis also revealed that twenty times stronger solar breaches happen when the Earth's and sun's magnetic fields are aligned. Scientists have believed the opposite to be true. Solar flares are temporary; they are not a risk to lives on Earth's surface, but they can disrupt satellite and ground communications. The data can help scientists predict the severity of solar storms and their effects on power grids, communication and satellite signals.


Down To Earth, January 2009