NASA has been all over the case of the “dent” in Earth’s protective magnetic field. The fears of the magnetosphere splitting in half have been trembling NASA, and it could be a potential headache for satellites and space missions.
A report has been published in The Business Insider, stating that the Earth’s magnetic field has been weakening, and it counts 9% of the loss. It’s been more than 200 years since the first occurrence, and the field now has lost 8% of its strength. Since 2013, ESA’s satellites have been keeping a close eye on the changes in the magnetic field and the possible anomaly. Today, NASA confirmed that the dent is, in fact, splitting in two.
It’s Happening High Above South America
The weakening spot has been there for decades, but it has been expanding and worsening slowly. It’s called South Atlantic Anomaly, and you won’t be able to see it from the ground, but it’s growing. The SAA (Short for South Atlantic Anomaly) developed a second center, thus forming a splitting dent, which you can observe on ESA’s (European Space Agency) visual example. NASA is troubled and interested in the events happening above South America.
Although the Earth’s magnetic field is still under observation (meaning that we don’t know a lot about it), we’re sure that it’s essential for Earth’s protection from solar particles. Compasses and GPS work thanks to the magnetic field. And even some animals, especially birds, navigate by sensing the magnetic field while migrating. The magnetic field fluctuations are natural, and this one could be another harmless fluctuation or a serious threat. The weakening of the magnetic field will hit the satellites first. Navigation and data collecting systems could be intruded on satellites that pass through this field.
The infamous ISS (International Space Station) often happens to fly through the anomaly and, therefore, packs extra protection to save the data and astronauts. Even a space station of such power has to shut down systems to avoid losing data and navigation. We also have other spacecraft observing Earth, space, and the irregularities, trying to send us valuable information. They are all at risk.
We know why it’s happening
Recent reports from NASA state that the processes deep inside the Earth caused the South American Anomaly. The magnetic field itself comes from the inner liquid core, which could be described as an immense magnet (think of North and South poles). But this gigantic magnet inside the Earth is not a regular bar magnet. Some flip-flops and fluctuations occur, resulting in weak and strong points in the field and even north and south changing places.
“A localized field with reversed polarity grows strongly in the SAA region, thus making the field intensity very weak, weaker than that of the surrounding regions,” commented Weijia Kuang, a geophysicist, and mathematician in NASA’s Goddard Geodesy and Geophysics Laboratory. Currently, we’re awaiting more information from NASA. The Earth scientists are observing the fluctuations in the splitting spot to be able to predict future happenings.