The interaction between the Earth’s magnetosphere and the Sun’s charged particles is complex, but scientists know that the magnetic field surrounds our planet to protect it. What they did not know is that waves moving along the magnetosphere move in the opposite direction of the solar wind, rather than just rippling in the same direction.
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The space climate has been the subject of research for decades, but it is still poorly understood. The solar wind is what scientists call the intense, charged particles that can harm our technological lifestyle. A more intense charge of these particles can create solar storms and damage electronic equipment and electrical networks. Therefore, it is important to know as much as possible about what is happening in the sky above our heads.
As the solar wind approaches the Earth, the magnetospheric waves that carry energy are there to interact with particles. Among these waves, there are those that require a limit to travel, which in this case is the edge of the magnetosphere itself. Previously, he and his colleagues thought they would wave against the Earth’s magnetic poles as soon as they were hit by the solar wind and then reflect back. The video below illustrates this interpretation.
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However, the new study shows that when the wind pulsates solar waves reaching the magnetosphere, the waves that form run forward, that is, in the opposite direction of the charged particles and then move backwards between the Earth’s magnetic poles. To find out, the researchers used THEMIS satellite observations from inside the magnetosphere, revealing that the waves are moving toward the solar wind.
So the researchers used models to illustrate how the energy from the solar wind and magnetospheric waves cancel each other out – roughly when we try to climb a descending escalator. “It’s going to look like you’re not moving even if you try very hard,” the study’s authors said. The model data was converted to audio frequencies and scaled up in time to create the video below.
The left panel shows a picture of the Earth’s north pole, while the right side shows the planet sideways with the Earth’s magnetosphere “cut” in half. In this second panel, the north and south poles are above and below, respectively. Red shows where the magnetic field becomes stronger, while blue shows where it weakens. Finally, the lowest sound left after the first “attack” is the standing waves that persist for the longest time at the edge of the magnetosphere.
Around minutes (time has been accelerated in the video) when the motion is slowed down and the red and blue pattern continues to show the standing waves, the edge of the magnetosphere vibrates like a drum. Standing waves lead to possible influences on the radiation belts or auroras. Scientists believe that this behavior can also be found in the magnetosphere on other planets in the galaxy or even at the edges of black holes.