CM – When the solar wind hits the Earth’s magnetosphere, there is a surprising silence


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October 6, 2021

by Hayley Dunning, Imperial College London

Energy from the solar wind, which interacts with the magnetospheric « bubble » around the earth, creates energy waves that appear to stand still.

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This new insight from research conducted by Imperial scientists improves our understanding of the conditions around the earth that contribute to « space weather » that can affect our technology from communications satellites in orbit to power lines on the ground.

The sun releases a stream of charged particles called the solar wind. On the surface of the earth, we are protected from this barrage by the magnetosphere – a bubble created by the earth’s magnetic field.

When the solar wind hits the magnetosphere, energy waves are transmitted along the boundary between the two. Scientists thought the waves should ripple in the direction of the solar wind, but the new study published today in Nature Communications shows that some waves do just the opposite.

Previously, lead researcher Dr. Martin Archer of the Department of Physics at Imperial and his colleagues found that the boundary of the magnetosphere vibrates like a drum. When a drumstick-like impulse from the solar wind hits our magnetospheric bubble at the very front, waves rush to the magnetic poles of the earth and are reflected back.

The latest work looks at and uses the waves that form over the entire surface of the magnetosphere a combination of models and observations from the NASA satellite THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms).

The researchers found that when solar wind impulses hit the magnetosphere, the waves generated not only along the earth’s field lines racing back and forth, but also wandering against the solar wind.

The team used models to illustrate how the energy of the wind coming from the sun and that of the waves directed against it can cancel each other out, creating “standing waves “Arise that contain a lot of energy, but don’t seem to go anywhere.

Dr. Archer said, « It’s similar to when you try to go down an escalator. It will look like you aren’t moving at all, even though you try hard. »

These standing waves can last longer last than those who move with the solar wind. This means that they are there longer to accelerate particles in near-Earth space, which leads to possible effects in regions such as the Earth’s radiation belts, the aurora or the ionosphere.

The researchers also say that standing waves pass through others From the magnetospheres of other planets to the peripheries of black holes.

The researchers also translated the electromagnetic signals from the THEMIS satellites into audio so that we could hear the sounds of the waves traveling over the Hike the magnetospheric boundary.

Dr. Archer added: “While we can see in a simulation what is going on everywhere, satellites can only measure these waves where they only give us time series, wobbly lines. This type of data is actually best for our hearing. « Than seeing, so listening to the data can often give us a more intuitive idea of ​​what is going on.

 » You can hear the deep breathing sound of standing surface waves hear, which lasts all the time and increases in volume with each pulse beat. Higher tones associated with other types of waves don’t last nearly as long.  »

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When the Solar wind hits the earth’s magnetosphere& # 39; a surprising silence sets in
When the solar wind hits the magnetosphere, some energy waves do exactly the opposite


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