Strange shapes discovered in Earth’s upper atmosphere : ScienceAlert

NASA scientists have discovered something resembling alphabet soup in ionospherea part of Earth’s atmosphere located about 48-965 kilometers (30-600 miles) above our heads – and the discovery could help improve space weather forecasts and radio communications.

Shapes like this have been discovered before, however Global scale notes for limbs and disc The GOLD imaging tool used here gives us our best look at it yet – revealing strange X and C shapes appearing at unexpected times and in some surprising places.

The ionosphere becomes electrically charged during the day when sunlight hits it, creating plasma bands of charged particles that are also affected by the Earth’s magnetic field. The peaks and bubbles of plasma form the shapes we’ve just observed.

One of the X-forms that scientists have observed. (Laskar et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics2024)

Previous studies Merged peaks have been shown to form X-shaped peaks after solar storms and large volcanic eruptions, but the data in this new study reveal that they can form in so-called “quiet times” as well, suggesting more local factors are at play.

Computer models suggest that low atmospheric conditions could pull the plasma downward.

“Previous reports of mergers only occurred during geomagnetically disturbed conditions,” He says Fazlul Laskar, an ionospheric physicist at the University of Colorado.

“It’s an unexpected feature during calm geomagnetic conditions.”

There is another discovery that has baffled scientists, which is the appearance C-shaped And C-shaped reverse Bubbles in the plasma. These shapes are thought to be created by winds on Earth, just as wind directions affect how a tree leans.

C shapes in the atmosphere
Images from NASA’s GOLD mission show C-shaped and inverse C-shaped plasma bubbles appearing close together in the ionosphere. (D. Karan et al., Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics2023)

However gold I have spotted These cesium clouds formed surprisingly close to each other – sometimes as far as 634 kilometers (400 miles) apart – and again this points to more local factors being involved, whether it’s wind shear, a tornado, or something else.

See also  Showing the time reflection of electromagnetic waves in a pilot experiment

Currently, tight C-form fillings appear to be relatively rare, and GOLD has only observed two so far. However, researchers are keen to investigate it further, and find out why it is found in the ionosphere.

“At this close, no one had thought of these two oppositely shaped plasma bubbles, and they had never been imaged,” He says Ionospheric physicist Deepak Karan of the University of Colorado.

Plasma in the ionosphere is essential for radio waves to be able to travel long distances, and discoveries in this area are improving our understanding of how radio and GPS work.

Disturbances in the ionosphere such as those observed here can affect important communications and navigation infrastructure.

This study and the GOLD data give us another example of how improving technology and innovations in scientific research can help us understand more about the Earth and the universe around it – even as they constantly change and evolve.

“The fact that we have very different bubble shapes close together tells us that the dynamics of the atmosphere are more complex than we expected,” He says Astrophysicist Jeffrey Klinzing of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who was not directly involved in the study.

The research was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *