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Scientists may have finally figured out how and why these leaks are appearing in the Earth's magnetic field

Satellite images collected by the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission revealed another large breach in the magnetic field responsible for protecting the Earth.

The magnetosphere helps protect the Earth from severe space weather, including possible disruptive solar winds, scientists said.  Being able to learn more about these holes will help scientists predict when electrical storms occur.

"The discovery overturns a long-standing belief about how and when most of the solar particles penetrate Earth's magnetic field, and could be used to predict when solar storms will be severe," UCLA NASA THEMIS mission investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos said in a statement.  "Based on these results, we expect more severe storms during the upcoming solar cycle."

Themis research indicates the magnetosphere sometimes has two cracks, which are big enough for solar wind -- with speeds up to 1 million MPH -- to hit the Earth's upper atmosphere.

The solar particles are electrically charged, which was no problem, but our magnetic field has tears that let the particles breach.

"Twenty times more solar particles cross the Earth's leaky magnetic shield when the sun's magnetic field is aligned with that of the Earth compared to when the two magnetic fields are oppositely directed," according to Cal researcher Marit Oieroset.

Scientists figured some type of "closed door" entry mechanism was used, but they weren't sure how important the closed door is for Earth.  Most particles hit the shield and float back into space, but some of the particles that get through are able to get energized while leading to possible power grid outages.

Most solar storms occur during the halfway section and on the final stretch of a solar cycle.  In 2008 it's at a minimum, and will reach its peak four years from now.

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Magnetic poles
By rudolphna on 12/17/2008 10:25:49 AM , Rating: 1
I seem to recall that its been several million years since hte magnetic poles have switched, and the magnetic field is growing weaker by the day. Could this possibly be prelude to the N/S poles switching, which scientists say is entirely possible within our lifetime? On a side note, what would happen? North becomes south, south north, East and west... I assume Everything would stay the same, just switch from north to south etc. What do you think?

RE: Magnetic poles
By pwndcake on 12/17/2008 11:08:21 AM , Rating: 4
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria!

RE: Magnetic poles
By FITCamaro on 12/17/2008 12:34:46 PM , Rating: 2
Dunno about all that, but we would be dead.

RE: Magnetic poles
By foolsgambit11 on 12/17/2008 7:03:57 PM , Rating: 3
So be good, for goodness sake.... wooah! Somebody's coming! Santa Clause is coming tooooooo town!

No studying.

RE: Magnetic poles
By Ringold on 12/17/2008 4:35:48 PM , Rating: 2
If it happens every few million years, then most species are able to survive it, so I don't see why it'd be anything more than annoying. It'd render aviation highly reliant on GPS and radio navigation, but at least we have that technology now. I'd heard about this too, I think on Discovery channel a while back.

RE: Magnetic poles
By ThePooBurner on 12/17/2008 5:02:34 PM , Rating: 2
I saw the same special. It was like 5-6 years ago. The poles are in the middle of switch and in about 100-200 years the poles will both be in the center of the earth and effectively nutralizing the field entirely till they move out again and finish the switch. The whole cycle is something like 10,000 years, with a 400ish year switch period.

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