Swarm and Cluster Get to the Bottom of Geomagnetic Storms

The magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable impact on every day life. The field can be thought of as a huge bubble, protecting us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The notion of living in a bubble is usually associated with negative connotations, but all life on Earth is dependent on the safe bubble created by our magnetic field. Understanding how the field is generated, how it protects us and how it sometimes gives way to charged particles from the solar wind is not just a matter of scientific interest, but also a matter of safety. Using information from ESA’s Cluster and Swarm missions along with measurements from the ground, scientists have, for the first time, been able to confirm that curiously named bursty bulk flows are directly connected to abrupt changes in the magnetic field near Earth’s surface, which can cause damage to pipelines and electrical power lines.

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Magnetic Shield Could Protect Future Astronauts

Magnetic shield for spacefarers
BBC News

Future astronauts could benefit from a magnetic “umbrella” that deflects harmful space radiation around their crew capsule, scientists say.

The super-fast charged particles that stream away from the Sun pose a significant threat to any long-duration mission, such as to the Moon or Mars. But the research team says a spaceship equipped with a magnetic field generator could protect its occupants.

Lab tests are reported in the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion. The approach mimics the protective field that envelops the Earth, known as the magnetosphere.