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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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Supersonic plasma jets discovered

23 March 2017

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Information from ESA's magnetic field Swarm mission has led to the discovery of supersonic plasma jets high up in our atmosphere that can push temperatures up to almost 10,000°C.

Presenting these findings at this week's Swarm Science Meeting in Canada, scientists from the University of Calgary explained how they used measurements from the trio of Swarm satellites to build on what was known about vast sheets of electric current in the upper atmosphere.

The theory that there are huge electric currents, powered by solar wind and guided through the ionosphere by Earth's magnetic field, was postulated more than a century ago by Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland.

It wasn't until the 1970s, after the advent of satellites, however, that these 'Birkeland currents' were confirmed by direct measurements in space.

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