Surprise energy transfer from the Solar Wind

UCLA atmospheric scientists have discovered a previously unknown basic mode of energy transfer from the solar wind to the Earth’s magnetosphere. The research, federally funded by the National Science Foundation, could improve the safety and reliability of spacecraft that operate in the upper atmosphere.

“It’s like something else is heating the atmosphere besides the sun. This discovery is like finding it got hotter when the sun went down,” said Larry Lyons, UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a co-author of the research, which is in press in two companion papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The sun, in addition to emitting radiation, emits a stream of ionized particles called the solar wind that affects the Earth and other planets in the solar system. The solar wind, which carries the particles from the sun’s magnetic field, known as the interplanetary magnetic field, takes about three or four days to reach the Earth. When the charged electrical particles approach the Earth, they carve out a highly magnetized region — the magnetosphere — which surrounds and protects the Earth…

The rate at which the solar wind transfers energy to the magnetosphere can vary widely, but what determines the rate of energy transfer is unclear.

“We thought it was known, but we came up with a major surprise,” said Lyons, who conducted the research with Heejeong Kim…

RTFA. Slowly. Carefully.

Demanding concepts, critically important to a great deal of what we may plan to do in the space around this wee planet of ours.

3 thoughts on “Surprise energy transfer from the Solar Wind

  1. Update says:

    “First View of ‘Interplanetary Shock’ Spotted by NASA Spacecraft”
    NASA launched their Magnetospheric Multiscale mission back in 2015, the goal of the mission was to observe and study how the Sun’s solar winds impact the Earth’s magnetic fields. In January 2018, NASA scientists managed to capture this space phenomenon using the four launched spacecrafts, this phenomenon was an interplanetary shock. An interplanetary shock is the transferring of solar energy (solar wind), this phenomenon occurs when a faster patch of solar wind overtakes a slower patch, resulting in the previously mentioned energy transfer, or ‘shock’. Since a first time recording of this transfer has now been captured and saved, scientists hope that with this new information that they will be able to develop a better understanding of how it all works, while also hoping to be able to capture other space phenomena.

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