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Standing Waves Emerge When Solar Wind Hits Earth’s Magnetosphere: Study


Sun’s uppermost atmosphere, known as Corona, produces these gushes of charged particles that make up the solar winds.(Credits:Shutterstock)

Sun’s uppermost atmosphere, known as Corona, produces these gushes of charged particles that make up the solar winds.(Credits:Shutterstock)

New research says that there are standing waves produced when solar winds hit the magnetosphere, and the data collected is heard instead of seen.

A team of scientists from Imperial College of London, led by Dr. Martin Archer, Department of Physics, have found new insights into the behaviour of waves produced by the interaction between Solar winds and the Earth’s Magnetosphere. According to the new research, there are standing waves produced when solar winds hit the magnetosphere, and the data collected is heard instead of seen.

Sun’s uppermost atmosphere, known as Corona, produces these gushes of charged particles that make up the solar winds. The solar winds travel towards the Earth but are hindered by the Earth’s magnetosphere that protects the Earth from magnetic anomalies. Earlier, scientists thought that these winds during the interaction with the protective layer of the Earth should produce waves that ripple in the direction of solar winds.

However, the new study conducted by the team at Imperial found that the waves actually do the opposite of what was expected. They ripple in the opposite to the solar winds. Using a combination of observations and models from NASA’s THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) satellites, scientists established that the magnetosphere’s boundary ripples like a sound drum. Moreover, the solar pulses formed during the interaction race back and forth along the Earth’s magnetic field lines and then travels opposite to the solar waves.

This results in the creation of standing waves where the energy of the wind and the pulses cancel each other out, resulting in waves that are energetic yet static. “It is similar to someone trying to walk down an escalator going upwards,” said Dr. Archer in a press release. He added, “While in the simulation we can see what’s going on, satellites can only measure the time-series waves. Therefore, hearing the data, rather than seeing it, gives us clearer insights.”

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The team converted the THEMIS electromagnetic signals into audio. Here’s what the waves produced by solar waves sound like:

According to the team, these new findings will improve the understanding regarding ‘Space Weather’ that has a significant impact on our communication satellites floating in orbit.

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first published:October 07, 2021, 14:54 IST