Scientists Discover Cloak of Plasma Around Earth
Scientists have discovered something new in the Earth’s atmosphere described as a warm cloak of plasma. The feature is part of the Earth’s magnetosphere that is key to protecting the planet from solar wind and radiation. The only visible parts of the Earth’s magnetosphere are the aurora borealis and the aurora australis. While most people don’t think much about the magnetosphere, it can have an effect on our lives.
Professor of Physics Rick Chappell from Vanderbilt University told Space.com, “Although it is invisible, the magnetosphere has an impact on our everyday lives. For example, solar storms agitate the magnetosphere in ways that can induce power surges in the electrical grid that trigger black outs, interfere with radio transmissions and mess up GPS signals. Charged particles in the magnetosphere can also damage the electronics in satellites and affect the temperature and motion of the upper atmosphere.”
The new region was discovered after Chappell and other researchers pieced together what they call a “natural cycle of energization” that accelerates low-energy ions in the Earth’s atmosphere into the higher energy levels found in regions of the magnetosphere.