In a new article published by researchers from the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and others, scientists have discovered that the Earth's magnetic field is a drum when it is hit by solar radiation.
Vibrating magnetic field as a drum
According to the study published in Nature Communicationswhen the solar wind plasma strikes the magnetopause – the outermost edge of the magnetic field – the action sends a wave wave across the surface of the field that reflects back as it approaches the magnetic poles.
The interaction between the original wave and the reflected wave creates a so-called standing wave pattern, where some wave points appear motionless while the area around it vibrates. This is exactly how the drum resonates when hit in a similar way.
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Such vibration in magnetopause was theorized 45 years ago but has not been heard so far. "There has been speculation that these vibrational vibrations may not occur at all, given the lack of evidence in the 45s since they were proposed" said Dr. Martin Archer, a space physicist at QMUL and the lead author of the report.
"Another possibility is that they are very difficult to determine definitively."
Detecting the sound of the magnetic field
The problem, according to Archer, is that the magnetic field is constantly hit by the solar wind, charged particles ejected from the sun in the form of plasma, which makes it difficult to detect isolated effects.
"The Earth's magnetic shield is constantly shaking with turbulence, so we thought the clear evidence of the proposed violent vibrations might require a strong impulse stroke. You will also need many satellites just in the right places during this event to exclude other known sounds or resonances. "
Researchers, however, fled when five NASA THEMIS satellites were perfectly positioned to detect this jitter just when a massive, isolated jet of plasma collided with the magnetopause. The satellites were able to record the "sound" made by the blow, which showed that the original theory was correct.
"The newspaper event was ticking all those very tight boxes and finally we showed the natural reaction at the border," Archer said.
The Magnetic Shield on Earth
Earth's magnetic field is crucial to our survival. Without it, life on Earth would not be possible, since the radiation from the sun would make Earth undesirable for life.
Theoretically, it is believed that Mars suffered such a fate when its weak magnetic field is insufficient to protect it from the solar wind that slowly breaks its atmosphere like a sand blaster.
In fact, it is now supposed that the Earth is about to suffer such a fate when we are lucky: the iron core of the Earth has hardened, jumped with our magnetic field just in time to protect the atmosphere from the solar wind around 565 millions of years ago .