NOV 23, 2016 06:00 AM PST

Did a Solar Storm Damage Earth's Magnetic Field?

In the Summer of 2015, a solar storm reportedly wreaked havoc on the Earth’s magnetic field. During the freak event, which reportedly lasted just a couple of hours, the Earth’s magnetosphere reportedly shrunk from 11 times the Earth’s radius to just four.
 

The Earth's magnetic field is supposed to protect the planet from stellar radiation, including solar wind.

 Image Credit: NASA

The solar storm was so strong that not only did it get passed Earth’s natural defense against cosmic radiation, but it also impacted technology in certain regions of the world, particularly in the Northern hemisphere.
 
Although it put on a spectacular Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) show, it may have also left a considerable dent in the Earth’s magnetic field permanently.
 
Despite happening more than a year ago, a study has just popped up in Physical Review Letters that actually shows just how scary this kind of thing really is.
 
Powerful solar winds capable of breaking through the Earth’s magnetic field could have dire consequences, as the magnetic field is the Earth’s only real defense against them. They have the potential to knock out various kinds of technology because they act a lot like electromagnetic pulses (EMPs).
 
But aside from that, these solar winds carry harmful radiation that could harm life on Earth, or even the astronauts orbiting Earth.
 
Humans in particular are sensitive to the Sun’s radiation, but if more radiation is allowed through the magnetic field, which normally deflects most of the harmful particles away from us, then skin cancers of all kinds could easily become far more widespread in the affected areas.
 
The study referenced suggests that we must continue to be mindful of our magnetic field, because it allows our planet to be the beautiful planet it is today. Magnetic storms like this one could further damage the Earth’s magnetic field, eventually turning it into an ineffective means of protection against radiation from space.
 
If this happened, we have an idea of what could happen to our planet already. You can turn your attention to Mars, a planet that was once thought to have a thriving magnetic field, but seems to have a very weak one today. Mars, which once had flowing water and possibly even life, is now a barren wasteland of sand and rock.
 
It’ll probably be a very long, long, longggggg time before Earth’s magnetic field is ever ineffective, since it has lasted this long already, but space can be unpredictable. Fortunately, experts in the field have all kinds of observation equipment to keep track of this sort of thing.
 
Source: Wired

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
FEB 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
FEB 11, 2019
NASA Tightening MAVEN's Orbit Around Mars in Preparation for Mars 2020 Rover
NASA launched its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission back in November of 2013 with the intent of studying Mars’ upper atmosphere,...
FEB 12, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
FEB 12, 2019
The Darkest Part of the Universe--Boötes Void
In the northern night sky, you can sometimes find a foreleg-shaped cluster of stars known as the Boötes (Greek word for "herdsman") constell...
MAR 27, 2019
Space & Astronomy
MAR 27, 2019
GRAVITY Instrument Observes Exoplanet with Optical Interferometry for First Time
Astronomers use a bevy of different methods to analyze distant exoplanets, but the GRAVITY instrument attached to the European Space Observatory’s Ve...
APR 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
APR 14, 2019
Here's Why Pluto Isn't Considered a Planet Anymore
Pluto was once considered a planet, much like Earth, but shortly after the start of the 21st century, astronomers seemingly changed their minds, instead op...
APR 15, 2019
Videos
APR 15, 2019
Why is the picture of the black hole such a big deal?
For centuries, physicists have theorized that, with enough mass and density, it is possible that a place exists that could trap even light in its gravitati...
MAY 09, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 09, 2019
Astronomers Baffled by the Strange Glow at the Center of Milky Way
Since 2009, astrophysicists have been seriously puzzled about an excess of gamma-ray appearing at the center of the Milky Way. The next decade witnessed a...
Loading Comments...