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You may not be able to hear it, but Earth's magnetic shield booms like a drum when it's bombarded by strong impulses, including those from solar wind, a new study finds.
Every time an impulse strikes the shield's outer boundary — a region known as the magnetopause — jolts ripple through its surface and then are reflected back once they reach the magnetic poles, just like the face of a drum ripples as a percussionist beats it.
Dayside - Side - Field - Earth - Sun
The dayside magnetosphere, the side of the magnetic field directly between the Earth and the sun, is a vast place. It usually extends some 10 times the radius of the Earth toward the sun, or about 41,000 miles (66,000 kilometers), said study lead researcher Martin Archer, a space plasma physicist at Queen Mary University of London.
In this artist’s rendition, a plasma jet impact (yellow) generates standing waves at the magnetopause boundary (blue) and in the magnetosphere (green). The outer group of four THEMIS probes recorded the flapping of the magnetopause over each satellite in succession.
Movements - Magnetopause - Flow - Energy - Earth
Movements in the magnetopause can impact the flow of energy within Earth's space environment, Archer noted. For instance, the magnetopause can be impacted by solar wind, as well as charged particles in the form of plasma that blow off the sun. These interactions with the magnetopause, in turn, have the potential to damage technology, including power grids and GPS devices.
Although physicists had proposed that blasts from space could vibrate the magnetopause like a drum, they had never seen it in action. Archer knew this would be a challenging phenomenon to capture; one would need several satellites in just the right places at the right time (that is, just as the magnetopause was blasted with a strong impulse). These satellites, it was hoped, would not only capture the vibrations but also rule...
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