Our planet’s magnetosphere, which prevents solar winds and radiation from reaching Earth, is currently DISAPPEARING, affecting the WEST first according to researchers.
While we are in the grip of a surge in solar storms – when radiation blast from the sun across near space – scientists have discovered our magnetic field and only defence against them is thinning.
The news comes as a level G4 solar blast from the Sun yesterday morning threatened to interfere with satellite and GPS communications systems, as we reported.
This natural shield reaches thousands of miles into space and also has an affect on weather patterns and global communication systems.
But yesterday’s blast and more that are prediced are not expected to reach us due to our planet’s magnetic field.
A European Space Agency mission, now at the end of the first of its four-year programme, has concluded the Earth’s magnetosphere is losing strength.
A spokesman for the agency said: “Measurements made over the past six months confirm the general trend of the field’s weakening, with the most dramatic declines over the Western Hemisphere.
“This will provide new insight into many natural processes, from those occurring deep inside our planet to space weather triggered by solar activity. In turn, this information will yield a better understanding of why the magnetic field is weakening.”
Researchers have warned if it weakens further or were completely eroded away, radiation levels reaching our planet’s surface would double – leading to a huge spike in deaths from skin cancer.
Solar winds could also slowly strip the atmosphere of ions, which would leave Earth unable to retain air and water, while a depleted shield could also speed up climate change.
And, first, the global electricity supply would be placed at huge risk.
Dr Mona Kessel, a NASA scientist studying the magnetosphere, said: “The very highly charged particles can have a deleterious effect on the satellites and astronauts.”
A group of Danish researchers found the Earth’s weather is being significantly affected by changes to the planet’s magnetic field.
They said changes in cosmic ray levels hitting our atmosphere affected the amount of cloud cover.
A sign of the alterations to the magnetosphere is an increased visibility of the Northern Lights, or ‘Aurora Borealis’, as solar winds hit the atmosphere, which are expected to be visible over the UK tonight.
Named Swarm, the research project uses three identical satellites to measure magnetic signals from rocks in the Earth’s core, mantle and crust, as well as from the oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere itself.
The magnetosphere a year ago – blue areas over south American and Africa are the weakest
Solar flare filmed by NASA yesterday
The three Swarm satellites at work
The very highly charged particles can have a deleterious effect on the satellites and astronauts
The satellites have different orbital paths to maximise sampling.
Swarm uses “magnetic gradiometry”, when two satellites orbit side-by-side at a distance of about 60 miles.
This helps discover how much of the magnetic field is created by charged rocks in the crust below.
After the first year, its results have already offered an insight into the weakening magnetosphere.
Rune Floberghagen, Swarm mission manager, said: “These results show that all the meticulous effort that went into making Swarm the best-ever spaceborne magnetometry mission is certainly paying off.”
Gauthier Hulot, a lead Swarm scientist, said: “Our magnetic field is largely generated by Earth’s outer core.
“The (Swarm) constellation provides detail on the way the field is changing and thereby weakening our protective shield.
“This is what will ultimately make it possible to predict the way this field will evolve over the next decades.”