What’s Wrong with Earth’s Magnetic Field?
Articles, Blog

What’s Wrong with Earth’s Magnetic Field?

August 13, 2019

From satellites malfunctioning to
strange flashing lights seen by astronauts on the International Space
Station there’s something odd happening in
certain parts of space close to Earth and the cause of these effects could
have wide-ranging impacts on all of us in the future. In February 2016 the
state-of-the-art Japanese x-ray Observatory Hitomi launched atop of
Mitsubishi rocket into a circular orbit 570 km above Earth
its mission was to study high-energy processes like black holes and
supernovae in clusters of distant galaxies but after just a month of
successful operations the Japanese space agency JAXA announced that on the 26th
of March they had suddenly lost communications with Hitomi, worse the
satellite was in an uncontrollable spin, attempts by the internal guidance system
to correct the rotation only made the problem worse,
turning it faster and faster until the solar panels broke away leaving Hitomi
without power. On the 28th of April 2016 after a month of attempts to try and
re-establish communications JAXA declared the $273 million dollar Space
Observatory lost but what was the cause of Hitomi’s demise. The answer lies in
the peculiar pattern of radiation which surrounds the earth discovered in 1958
by the first US satellite. The American physicist James Van Alen proposed
fitting Explorer 1 with a Geiger counter attached to a small tape
recorder to measure radiation levels above the atmosphere.
Sure enough Explorer 1 observed distinct patterns of radiation during
its 111 day mission these became known as the Van Allen belts donut-shaped
fields of energized particles emitted from a Sun and trapped by the Earth’s
magnetic field. In fact the radiation belts were
discovered by Sputnik 2 just over two months before the American Explorer 1,
however due to sputnik’s trajectory over foreign territory and the secrecy around
the mission, it meant that when the signals were picked up by the
Australians the two sides refused to talk to each
other and the Australians refused to pass the data on. When the Soviets
finally got their hands on the data they mistakenly thought that the spikes in
the radiation were a result of a recent solar flare and by the time they figured
out the real reason, the American Van Allen team had announced the discovery.
There are two main concentrations of radiation surrounding the earth an inner
radiation belt made up of mostly energized protons that peaks at around
2,900 km and an outer radiation belt mostly
consisting of electrons of peaks at around at altitude of 16,000
kilometers. The Van Allen belts are responsible for Aurora’s such as the
northern and southern lights where they meet the Earth’s atmosphere around the
magnetic poles and channel charged particles into the upper atmosphere it’s
here that they react with atmospheric gases and form the colorful displays. The
most common Aurora color a pale yellowish green is produced by oxygen
molecules located about a 100 km above the earth. Rare all red
Aurora’s are produced by high-altitude oxygen at heights of up to 330
km and nitrogen produces blue or purplish red Aurora’s. But orbital
surveys revealed another large area where strong radiation dips down to just
200 kilometers above the Earth’s surface over a continent-sized area above the
Atlantic coast of South America. This is known as the South Atlantic anomaly or
the cosmic Bermuda Triangle and it’s this that is the cause of a strange
effects on both the human body and robotic spacecraft. In the 1960s and 70s
spacecraft in orbit relied upon early computer chips which had much larger
transistor sizes and were less sensitive to the bombardment of charged particles
this electronic toughness was especially important for the Apollo missions which
had to cross the Van Allen belt and leave for protection of Earth’s magnetic
field. But during the missions the astronauts reported seeing spots and
streaks of light which continue to flash even when they close
their eyes. These visual effects are called phosphenes and a 2006 survey of
astronauts found at 47 out of 59 respondents had experienced them, some
even reporting the lights had disturbed their sleep.Although humans haven’t
crossed the Van Allen belts since December 1972, all spacecraft that passed
through the South Atlantic anomaly experienced an increased dose of
radiation of up to a thousand times the usual levels for low Earth orbits. To
deal with this the International Space Station is fitted with shielding that
protects astronauts from some of the increased radiation when passing through
the anomaly. Even so, the crew on the ISS each wear personal dosimeters and
electronic devices often suffer lock ups or failures known as single event upsets
these are more common with consumer grade electronics like laptops which are
brought with the crew which are built to less demanding specifications than space
or military-grade components which are radiation hardened. Since the space
shuttle missions, astronauts have reported laptop failures over the South
Atlantic, fortunately the fix is usually a simple
reboot. One way to shield against high-energy charged particles is to use
water good, yep, old-fashioned water makes an excellent shield against ions electrons
and protons due to its high hydrogen content. Some astronauts have even taken
to lining their sleeping areas with water bags and even their dosimeters to
reduce their total exposure number to get longer and more frequent missions
but of course at their own risk of greater radiation exposure.
However the Space Telescope’s like Hubble depend upon highly sensitive
electronics to capture light from distant galaxies. As Hubble passes
through the South Atlantic anomaly operators routinely switch off imaging
sensors to avoid damaging them, however one of Hubble’s cameras the Wide Field
Camera 3 can still function in this portion of the orbit but the image is
still register for characteristics speckling of a radiation artifacts.
Hitomi’s light-gathering sensors were ultimately found to be the cause of the
failure cascade that led to the loss of Japanese satellite. When passing through
the South Atlantic anomaly the star tracker which is used to orientate the
craft with a known fixed point suffered a series of glitches causing the
satellite to switch to backup gyroscopic instrumentation, which also then failed.
Being on the opposite side to earth from Japan and out of direct communication
with Mission Control the error was only discovered after it was too late. To
avoid similar losses in future space agencies are pursuing two strategies,
first to better understand. The South Atlantic anomaly itself and to make
satellite electronics more resilient to the effects of radiation as they pass
through the danger zone. But the South Atlantic anomaly is not a stationary
phenomena, since 1958 scientists have observed that the anomaly has been
increasing in size and is also gradually moving northward and westward this is in
line with both the North and the South Poles which are constantly moving around.
Over the last 150 years the North Pole has moved over a 1000 kilometers and
has recently accelerated to 40 km a year and the magnetic South
Pole is now over a 1000 kilometers away from a geographic South Pole. But
there isn’t just one anomaly either, in fact there are many smaller ones
scattered around the globe. The European Space Agency is currently mapping these
changes with the swarm mission which launched three small satellites into
polar orbits. Two of the swarm satellites orbits side-by-side at an altitude of
450 kilometers and one orbits at a higher altitude of 530 kilometers swarm
has tracked fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field since 2014 and the data
has revealed strange weather systems deep beneath our feet that could be to
blame for the spreading footprint of a South Atlantic anomaly. Beneath 2,900
kilometers of crust and mantel our planets core is in two parts, a central core of solid iron nickel alloy about the size of a moon and at 4,500
degrees centigrade that’s as hot as the surface of an
orange star like Arcturus and yet solid due to the immense pressure of 50
million pounds per square inch bearing down on it.
The second outer core is molten and about the size of Mars and fully
envelops the inner core. As the planet spins it’s the movement of this molten
metal outer core which is responsible for the generation of a magnetic field.
As the outer core is molten iron and is a liquid it is affected by the Coriolis
forces that come from a spinning earth these forces create chaotic movement any
outer core much like the weather in our atmosphere and also like our weather,
this outer core weather is driven by hate but instead of heat from the Sun
its heat from the inner core. This sets up massive convection currents combined
with the swirling effects of a Coriolis forces it creates weather systems and storms within the molten outer core. These
storms create new temporary magnetic poles that can be opposite to the
surrounding area. This is what the South Atlantic anomaly is, it’s a pole reversal
and as such it negates the effect of a magnetic field around it, weakening it
and allowing charged particles to come much closer to Earth. Like atmospheric
storms these outer core storms can also merge and become larger which is how the
South Atlantic anomaly is believed to have grown in strength. The swarm mission also has identified a molten iron jet stream within the outer core
flowing westwards beneath Alaska and Siberia a speed around 50 kilometers per
year. Although this may not sound a lot, this dense flow of iron takes a huge
amount of energy to move and is estimated to be hundreds of millions of
years old. This increasingly chaotic behavior in the outer core is thought to
be the prelude to a complete pole reversal something which has
happened hundreds of times before in Earth’s history about every 250,000
years although the last time it happened was over 750 thousand years ago so it
looks like we are due for another pole reversal any time. Although a pole
reversal takes several thousand years to complete during this time the Earth’s
magnetic field would weaken considerably and might consist of multiple north and
south poles spread anywhere around the globe. A weaker magnetic field would bring charged particles closer to the earth
and could create ozone holes like that which formed over the South Pole a few
decades ago. This would increase the level of ultraviolet light getting through
and increase the risk of things like skin cancer. It would also leave us more
susceptible to solar storms which could wreak havoc with the world’s electrical
power grid. By finding more weather patterns in the core, swarm will help
predict the future shape and behavior of Earth’s magnetic field but in any case
building tougher satellites is said to be big business in the coming decades as
we see a surge in a number of small SATs. By launching networks of miniaturized
satellites into low-earth orbits, governments and commercial satellite
operators aim to replace heavy and expensive geostationary satellites at a
fraction of the cost. Small SATs usually orbit below most of the radiation of the
inner Van Allen belt and avoid the long-term degradation of electrics found
on geostationary satellites which operate within the outer ventolin belt.
However, small SATs have another problem they frequently pass through the South
Atlantic anomaly. One company working on the problem is Thales Alenia space, a
French-Italian aerospace company who are Europe’s largest satellite manufacturer.
They are pioneering the use of gallium nitride on silicon chips which operate
at higher voltages and temperatures than regular silicon chips, offering increased
protection against radiation. In commercial applications the loss of
several nodes in a satellite network would be an inconvenience,
however if military satellite operators transition from geostationary to
low-earth orbits more stats then the effects of the South Atlantic anomaly
could introduce a significant vulnerability
especially after solar storms. Whichever way we go what is happening deep beneath our feet is going to affect what happens high above us and ultimately what
happens here on earth so we need to take steps to be prepared. So what’s your
thoughts about the growing instability in the outer core and what do you think
we should do to counter its possible effects on our way of life let me know
in the comments below. Don’t forget you can also translate any of the How did NASA get those great film shots of Apollo and the Shuttle?
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  • Reply Curious Droid August 28, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Just in case you thought this was a case of Déjà vu, it’s a re-upload of a video from earlier this year which had some technical issues which I have now sorted out

  • Reply Braxton Curry August 7, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    I dunno but the sun is a whole hell of a lot hotter and the UV is way stronger.
    And NO it’s not global warming or climate change. It’s the damn sun baking us.

  • Reply Daniel Rice August 7, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    I’m all seriousness, what steps can I personally take to be prepared for a geomagnetic reversal?

    I don’t have enough money for military shielded electronics and I don’t know how to immunize myself against cancer.

  • Reply KIMATHI'S GREAT ADVENTURE August 8, 2019 at 12:26 am

    So wait essentially what he's saying here is the Earth is going to cause climate change too??

  • Reply Giordano Bruno August 8, 2019 at 12:41 am

    this looks like the real reason for climate change!

  • Reply Tomi Tuominen August 9, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Awesome content but wtf is wrong with your fashion sense xD that shirt hurts my eyes.

  • Reply Ed H. August 10, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Space is a Huge Trash Can because of man! And we keep sending stuff up !

  • Reply james pong August 10, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    We all gonna die!!!!

  • Reply Dwight Hicks August 10, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    Hey let's release water into the electrically sensitive environment of the space station and see what happens. ……..LMAO at all of you brainwashed fools out there

  • Reply AdroitWaterBear August 11, 2019 at 3:19 am

    Clip of dying, dead dog did nothing to advance the story line, just a gratuitous stomach-turner.

  • Reply J. D. Schultz, Sr. August 11, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    "The Curious, Bullshitting Droid is Putting out SO much crap, he must have used dozens of laxitives and enemas. These silly-ass "geophysics" would get him laughed out of any 6th grade science class. Anyone who believes ANY of this pseudo-scientific crapola needs to reline their foil hat with 1/4 inch lead, and go for a swim!!

  • Reply RC Hobbyist Extreme August 11, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    We DO NOT know enough about this planet and its past to start jumping to conclusions as to what is happening to the workings of earth and its workings. We can guess at what things should be like or how we think they should operate but to be honest, we know very little as to how the radiation belts work and how they worked thousands of years ago or how they will work years from now. We can study things and learn about things that affect us in space.

  • Reply Toreshammere Celt August 11, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    OK uncle Fester.

  • Reply Cashy Smashy August 13, 2019 at 3:52 am

    There’s nothing wrong with it . We just need to fart in Mexicans mouths more often and that should level it out just fine👍🏻

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