Crack in Earth's magnetic shield detected

Earth magnetic sphere

Crack in Earth's magnetic shield detected

Subsequently a severe geomagnetic storm around the earth's shield was triggered which led to an aurora borealis, which can be credited for radio signal blackouts in high latitude countries.

The GRAPES-3 muon telescope located at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research's Cosmic Ray Laboratory in Ooty in Tamil Nadu recorded a burst of galactic cosmic rays of about 20 GeV previous year lasting for two hours.

The study reports for two hours on June 22, 2015, particles from a giant cloud of fast-moving plasma penetrated the Earth's atmosphere at approximately 1.6 million mph.

The researchers explained the fact that this happened at all is a concern, as it suggests that our magnetic field is changing - or rather, weakening - in certain parts.

GRAPES-3 (Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3) is a collaboration of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and several Indian and Japanese institutes.

Scientists were able to obtain a precise estimation of the full extent of the weakening and damage to the magnetosphere caused by the heavy cosmic ray bombardment after a recent analysis of data collected using the GRAPE-3 muon telescope in Ooty, India.

The simulations revealed that the radiation caused multiple small cracks in the magnetosphere that exposed the Earth to potentially harmful radiation. It causes the magnetosphere to be compressed by 11 to 4 times the radius of the Earth.

"The simultaneous occurrence of the burst in all nine directions suggests its origin close to Earth", the authors wrote in the study, published in Physical Review Letters.

In this instance, the process was powerful enough to open a crack through which a burst of cosmic rays slipped through.

The study reveals that the Earth's magnetosphere is more vulnerable than previously thought, the researchers said.

Scientists hope to create a magnetosphere to protect Earth in the event of an incoming solar storm which could wipe out humanity.

Solar storms can cause major disruption to human civilization by crippling large electrical power grids, global positioning systems (GPS), satellite operations and communications.

This research can help us understand how future superstorms of cosmic rays could affect the planet and our technological infrastructure, and even endanger the wellbeing of astronauts living on the International Space Station.

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