The magnetic field that protects Earth from deadly cosmic radiation may be more vulnerable than previously thought. A crack in the shield caused by a solar flare which exposed the planet to a bombardment of radiation has been detected.
Researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India made the discovery when analyzing a galactic cosmic ray burst that caused radio blackouts across North and South America and a supercharged aurora borealis in 2015.
The cosmic ray source was a giant solar plasma cloud that traveled 40 hours from our sun to reach Earth, where the researchers believe it caused a transient “weakening of Earth’s magnetic shield”, according to their findings published in the journal Physical Review Letters. [RT]
Earth’s magnetosphere extends over a radius of a million kilometers, which acts as the first line of defense, shielding us from the continuous flow of solar and galactic cosmic rays, thus protecting life on our planet from these high intensity energetic radiations.
Solar storms can cause major disruption to human civilization by crippling large electrical power grids, global positioning systems (GPS), satellite operations and communications.
The GRAPES-3 muon telescope, the largest and most sensitive cosmic ray monitor operating on Earth is playing a very significant role in the study of such events. This recent finding has generated widespread excitement in the international scientific community, as well as electronic and print media. [INDIATIMES]
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