Swarm and Cluster Understanding Geomagnetic Storms

Photo: ESA/ATG medialab

The term “life in a bubble” is usually associated with negative connotations, but all life on Earth depends on the safe bubble created by our magnetic field. Understanding how this field is formed, how it protects us, and how it sometimes gives way to charged particles from the solar wind is not only a matter of scientific interest, but also a matter of safety. Using information from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) cluster and swarm missions, along with ground-based measurements, scientists have confirmed for the first time that volcanic currents with an exotic name are directly related to sudden changes in the magnetic field near the Earth’s surface, which can cause damage. . Damage to pipelines and electrical lines.

The magnetosphere is a teardrop-shaped region of space that begins about 65,000 km from Earth on the day side and extends over 6,000,000 km on the night side. It consists of interactions between the Earth’s magnetic field and the supersonic wind that comes from the Sun. These interactions are very dynamic and involve complex magnetic field configurations and electric current systems. Certain solar conditions, known as space weather, can injure the magnetosphere by chasing high-energy particles and currents through the system, sometimes disrupting space equipment, ground communications networks, and electrical systems.

In an elliptical orbit around the Earth, with a distance of up to 100,000 km, the European Space Agency’s unique cluster mission of four spacecraft has revealed the secrets of our magnetic environment since 2000. Remarkably, the mission remains in excellent health and continues to enable new discoveries in field of heliophysics – the science that investigates the relationship between the sun and objects in the solar system, in this case the earth. Launched from the Swarm satellites in 2013, the trio of ESA orbits close to Earth and is primarily used to understand how our magnetic field is created by precisely measuring magnetic signals emitted from Earth’s core, mantle, crust, and oceans, as well as the ionosphere and magnetosphere. However, Swarm also leads to new insights into space weather. The integration of these two missions, which are part of the European Space Agency’s Heliophysical Observatory, provides scientists with a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the Earth’s magnetosphere and better understand the dangers of space weather.

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In an article in Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists describe how they used data from both mass and swarm, along with measurements from ground-based instruments, to investigate the relationship between solar storms, volcanic mass flows in the inner magnetosphere, and Earth-wide magnetic field disturbances that drive Geomagnetic induced currents above and below the Earth’s surface. The theory was that intense changes in the geomagnetic field that drive magnetically induced currents coexist with currents flowing in the direction of the magnetic field, driven by bulk flowing fluxes, which are fast flows of ions that typically travel at speeds greater than moving 150 km per second. These field currents connect the ionosphere and the magnetosphere and pass through the sites of both the cluster and swarm. So far, this theory has not been confirmed.

Malcolm Dunlop, of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK, explains: “We used the example of a solar storm in 2015 in our research. The group’s data allowed us to investigate the massive outflows of volcanic eruptions – batches of particles in the magnetic tail – that contribute significantly – the convection of material toward the Earth during periods of geomagnetic activity, which is associated with features of the northern lights known as auroral signs. The warm data showed corresponding large disturbances closer to Earth associated with the interconnection of field currents directed from the outer regions containing the fluxes.” Together with other measurements from the Earth’s surface, we were able to confirm That intense magnetic field disturbances near Earth are associated with the arrival of volcanic bulk flows into space.

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Anya Ström, ESA’s Swarm mission manager, added: “We were able to achieve the results thanks to the fact that both missions have been extended beyond their expected lifespan, meaning that both missions went into one orbit simultaneously, which allowed us to be able to to achieve results.” While this scientific discovery may sound somewhat academic, there are real benefits to society. The Sun bathes our planet with the light and heat needed to sustain life, but it also bombards us with dangerous charged particles in the solar wind. These charged particles can damage communications networks, navigation systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as satellites – on which we all depend for our daily lives for services and information.

As discussed in the article, these storms can affect the Earth’s surface and subsurface, leading to blackouts, such as the major blackout in Quebec in Canada in 1989. With the rapid expansion of infrastructure, both on land and in space, Supporting modern life, there is a growing need to understand and monitor the weather in space in order to identify appropriate control strategies.

Alexey Glover, of the European Space Agency’s Space Weather Office, said, “These new findings help us better understand the processes within the magnetosphere that can lead to dangerous events in space weather. Understanding these phenomena and their potential consequences is essential to developing reliable services for End users running potentially sensitive infrastructure.

source: who – which

Megan Vasquez

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