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NASA Probes Witness Magnetic Explosions That Influence Weather In Space

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NASA probes were able to witness magnetic explosions that influence weather in space.

More specifically, the spacecraft were able to measure the interactions between the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth, which are associated with space weather events above the surface of the planet.

The new discovery may aid experts to better predict space weather events and decrease destructive impacts, particularly in the field of telecommunications, as the phenomenon, which is called magnetic reconnection, is known to disrupt satellites.

Magnetic Reconnection

The Earth is enveloped in a magnetic covering called magnetosphere, which shields Earthlings from hazardous space radiation. Magnetic reconnection occurs when the magnetic field lines across the Earth and anywhere from space, say the sun, come up against each other in different orientations. The fields clash and assemble back into an explosive reaction.

During magnetic reconnection, protons and electrons shoot out. Experts have already observed proton movement before, but this is the first time that experts were able to directly measure electrons.

During the observation, the electrons were observed shooting away in straight lines from its original source at hundreds of miles per second and across boundaries that would typically avert them. When they reach the end, they turn back as a response to the new magnetic field.

"There have been theories about the movement of electrons in magnetic reconnection for decades, but this is the first real proof of what they do," says study author Jonathan Eastwood from Imperial College London.

How The Authors Investigated

The study was made possible via NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS), which began in March 2015. Come Oct. 16, 2015, it traveled through a magnetic reconnection event, particularly at the location where the Earth's field lines bumped into that of the sun's. The observations reflect those of a computer simulation called crescent model, which shows the expected distance of electron travel before it turns back around again.

The study was published in the journal Science on May 12.

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