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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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ScienceShot: Powering Up the Magnetosphere
26 September 2013 2:00 pm
Taking advantage of a rare chance alignment of eight Earth-orbiting spacecraft, space physicists have pinned down where and how the energy of the solar wind can surge Earthward to power the celestial light of the auroras and help fire up the Van Allen radiation belts. Researchers knew that the magnetosphere—Earth’s magnetic bubble of plasma—gets its energy from solar wind, which blows the plasma into its teardrop shape and stores energy by stretching and compressing the magnetosphere’s magnetic field lines (blue). These stressed magnetic field lines can merge, or reconnect, at a point about halfway between Earth and the orbit of the moon. But, contrary to expectations, the stored energy is not just released where reconnection occurs, researchers report online today in Science. Instead, energy is released at a magnetically intense “front” as reconnection slings the front toward Earth at almost 1.5 million kilometers per hour (and sends another front toward deep space). The passage of a front heats the plasma (yellow zone) and sends charged particles flying toward Earth (red arrow), where the onslaught powers both radiation belts and aurora.