The Atmosphere Ripped Open

Sorta, Kinda.  Maybe.

I saw this just the other day at Space.com. It caught my eye.

The Sun on 17 Dec. 2008

The Sun on 17 Dec. 2008

Scientists have found two large leaks in Earth’s magnetosphere, the region around our planet that shields us from severe solar storms.

The leaks are defying many of scientists’ previous ideas on how the interaction between Earth’s magnetosphere and solar wind occurs: The leaks are in an unexpected location, let in solar particles in faster than expected and the whole interaction works in a manner that is completely the opposite of what scientists had thought.

Then I noticed this by Anthony Watts at Watt’s Up With That?

Observations made by NASA instruments onboard an Air Force satellite have shown that the boundary between the Earth’s upper atmosphere and space has moved to extraordinarily low altitudes. These observations were made by the Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation (CINDI) instrument suite, which was launched aboard the U.S. Air Force’s Communication/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite on April 16, 2008.

Watts was one of the first to notice that there have been very, very few sun spots this cycle (the sun’s disk has been almost blank for nearly two years now – click on the photo of the sun to see what it was like on Dec. 17).  Today he follows up with this.

This sounds like a plot of a 1950’s scifi movie. But it is real. From my view, our localized corner of the solar system is now different than it used to be and changes in the magnetic interactions are evident everywhere. First we have the interplanetary magnetic field that took an abrupt dive in October 2005 and has not recovered since and remains at very low level[.]

Then we have the recent discovery that the ionosphere has dropped in altitude to unexpected and unexplained low levels.

We have a solar cycle 24 (driven by the solar magnetic dynamo) which can’t seem to get out of the starting gate, being a year late with forecasts for activity from it being revised again and again.

And finally we have this, this discovery that Earth’s magnetic field can be ripped open and our atmosphere laid bare to the solar wind, much like Mars.

This last comes from NASA News.

NASA’s five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth’s magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to “load up” the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms. But the breach itself is not the biggest surprise. Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction.”

Yeah – this is the same NASA I called “less than credible” just the day before last.  The difference here, however, is that the article referenced is just a straight forward reporting of the data and of the researcher’s surprise.  If there’s dogma or political opinion in the piece, it’s in the description of older scientific beliefs being overturned as inadequate.

Regardless, something’s up. My gut (and I have no more to go on than that) says that Watts is onto something when he ties together the lack of sunspots, the earth’s ionosphere and the weather (including climate change).

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Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Catastrophy, Global Warming, Science, Space

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