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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Solar Wind Stifles Mercury's Magnetic Field
22 December 2011 2:00 pm
Ever since NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft zipped past Mercury in 1974, scientists have wondered why the planet's magnetic field is so much wimpier than expected. Now, a new study led by researchers at Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany suggests that the solar wind—the incessant flow of charged particles boiling off the sun's surface—suppresses the field generated by the flow of molten iron in the planet's outer core. On the sunward side of Mercury, the magnetopause—the protective shield created by the planet's magnetic field—sits just 1200 kilometers above the planet's surface. That's so close, the team's computer models indicate, that magnetic fields created by particles flowing along the magnetopause reach deep into Mercury itself, counteracting the internally-generated field. Without the external fields generated by the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field might be about 30 times stronger than it actually is, the researchers report today in Science. NASA's MESSENGER probe (artist's concept above) has been orbiting Mercury since mid-March and will provide unprecedented measurements of the strength and direction of the planet's magnetic field, revealing more about how such fields are generated in the first place.
See more ScienceShots.