IBEX Cracks Open the Mystery of How the Earth is Protected from Solar Winds

It is a well known fact that the magnetic field of the Earth acts as a shield, protecting the life on Earth. The force field created by the magnetosphere of the Earth, repels the energetic particles that come out of the sun, in the form of solar wind.

A team of scientists from San Antonio’s SwRI (Southwest Research Institute), Lockheed Martin’s ATC (Advanced Technology Center) and many other institutes, have applied the information collected by NASA’s IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) to comprehend and get a handle on the mechanism.

NASA’s IBEX was sent into the Earth’s orbit on 19th October, 2008, to ascertain the interaction involving the solar wind and the interstellar medium- the gas, radiation and dust conditions between the stars, by quantifying the neutral atoms formed due to the interaction. As IBEX is in the Earth’s orbit, it observes the Earth, its magnetic field, and its interaction with the solar winds, and records them in astonishing detail, due to the presence of two highly sensitive and energetic neutral atom cameras which show up some unbelievable images of the interaction, and is being put to use to get to the bottom of a long unsolved mystery.

Stephen A. Fuselier, Lockheed Martin Scientist, and lead investigator for the IBEX-Lo sensor, affirmed that solar wind particles would be able to cleave some portions of the Earth’s atmosphere if not for the magnetosphere’s protection, as it obstructs the solar wind from coming close to the Earth’s atmosphere. Consequently, the interaction takes place far-off from our planet, where, the interaction is feeble as the density of the atmosphere is extremely low. The data about the neutral atom dimensions from IBEX permitted the scientists to compare the neutrals created from the charge exchange, with the ion population measurements obtained from a different spaceship, situated exterior to the magnetosphere, and thus help in putting a figure on the charge exchange procedure. The American Geophysical Union has in recent times, made public the entire charge exchange process in a paper titled, ‘Energetic Neutral Atoms from the Earth’s subsolar magnetopause’.

Source: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/

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