You’ve seen the pattern in science class when you laid bits of iron around a bar magnet. The invisible force field around the magnet becomes suddenly visible when the iron filings fall into line. The iron-cored Earth is also a great magnet, and scientists have spent a century exploring its shape and structure. Visualization built by Greg Shirah and Tom Bridgman, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. Caption by Mike Carlowicz
IKAROS would do well to watch its back, for the Japanese solar-sailing spacecraft may just have some competition that’s fast enough to catch up. The EU is funding a three-year project at the Finnish Meteorological Institute to build the fastest man-made device in the universe: an electric sail, or ESAIL, that researchers say could make Pluto in just five years’ time.