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The geomagnetic field is a fundamental property of our planet – it protects us from the solar wind, helps us navigate, and observations of local and global geomagnetic field variation on timescales from hours to years reveals information on a multitude of Earth and near-Earth phenomena such as ocean circulation pattern, tides, plasma bubbles in the Earth ionosphere and jet-streams in the core of our planet. Magnetic field fluctuations associated with natural phenomena such as earthquakes and hurricanes can also be observed, and close monitoring of the geomagnetic field variations by satellite systems will further enhance our knowledge and understanding of the coupling of our complex Earth and near-Earth system.

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Seven ESA satellites team up to explore Earth's magnetic field

01 July 2015

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For the first time ever, two of ESA's flagship space missions - Cluster and Swarm - have joined forces to simultaneously measure the properties of Earth's magnetic field at two different altitudes.

The satellites found a number of striking similarities in the behaviour and structure of the field-aligned currents detected at each altitude, despite their vastly different locations. Field-aligned currents (FACs) flow along Earth's magnetic field lines, transferring energy from region to region.

This is the first time that multiple spacecraft have simultaneously and directly measured the current density of the magnetic field surrounding our planet at each location. Their results not only explore and characterise the magnetic behaviour in the space around our planet, but also directly show a clear link between field-aligned currents flowing at different altitudes around the Earth.

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