May 18, 2024

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Earth: exploring its magnetic field – what worries scientists

Earth: exploring its magnetic field – what worries scientists

Earth has two shields that protect it from the dangers of space, the atmosphere and the magnetic field. The loss of these two people means the end of life on the blue planet.

in motion

Right now, many elements of the giant magnetic field are moving, and speculation abounds as to whether Earth’s magnetic poles could reverse and weaken the field in the long term. But how likely is this and what might it entail?

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), Earth’s magnetic field is a complex and dynamic protection mechanism for our planet against cosmic radiation and charged particles from the Sun.

“Earth’s magnetic field is a relatively chaotic process,” says Jürgen Machka, a geomagnetism expert at the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam.

risk of solar storms

Solar storms aren’t just responsible for the gorgeous northern lights. They can also cause significant technological damage and interference with satellites and telecommunications.

In this process, high-energy microparticles moving through a cloud of solar plasma for a distance of 150 million km are transported to our planet in a short period of time.

Unlike the geographic poles, the Earth’s magnetic poles are not solid at all. Statistically speaking, the process of repeated pole reversal is long overdue, according to Matska.

“The last reversal was about 780,000 years ago,” he says, which is longer than the long-term average of 300,000 to 500,000 years.

However, there are phases where no reversal has occurred for millions of years.

According to Matska, “We’ve known since 1840 that the overall strength of the magnetic field is decreasing,” mainly due to a significant decrease in the Southern Hemisphere, in regions of South Africa, South America, and the South Atlantic, where the field is about 30% weaker than it was. expected.

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In Europe, however, it is on the rise again.

Can the magnetic poles be reversed?

Can the magnetic field be seriously weakened?

“We’ve built some representations of Earth’s magnetic field in the past that show very frequent and strong changes in field strength, or pole reversals,” says Matska.

In the actual magnetic field, there is no indication of a reversal, but this could be caused by influences in the Southern Hemisphere.

At the time of the last domain reversal there were no humans on Earth, so there are no relevant records. Most finds from oceanic sediment samples have shown fairly little impact on the evolution or extinction of species.

However, things are different in our technologically advanced age. The risks to satellites are constantly increasing.

When there are warnings of solar storms, the systems in the respective areas should be turned off.

“There is certainly also the possibility that, if we were hit by a particularly strong phenomenon, there would be more damage than anyone could have imagined,” Matska says.

The South Atlantic region has long been a challenge for low-Earth orbiting satellites, as their electronics can be quite affected by high-energy protons.

The so-called solar activity is now increasing again in a cycle of about eleven years and is expected to reach its maximum in 2025.

However, the weakening of the magnetic field is not so strong that there are strong concerns about the dangerous effects of solar storms.

However, although one cannot see or hear the magnetic field in Earth’s outer core, scientists at the Technical University of Denmark have converted magnetic signals measured by an ESA satellite mission into sound.

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The results are more ominous than reassuring.

Source: Deutsche Welle

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