ESA’s three-satellite Swarm constellation reveals the first set of high-resolution results, from the most recent changes in the magnetic field that protects our planet. Watch the video…
Images © ESA
Launched in November 2013, Swarm is providing unprecedented insights into the complex workings of Earth’s magnetic field, which safeguards us from the bombarding cosmic radiation and charged particles.
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.
But in other areas, such as the southern Indian Ocean, the magnetic field has strengthened since January.
The latest measurements also confirm the movement of magnetic North towards Siberia.
These changes are based on the magnetic signals stemming from Earth’s core. Over the coming months, scientists will analyse the data to unravel the magnetic contributions from other sources, namely the mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere.
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.
Rune Floberghagen, ESA’s Swarm Mission Manager, said:
“These initial results demonstrate the excellent performance of Swarm.
With unprecedented resolution, the data also exhibit Swarm’s capability to map fine-scale features of the magnetic field.”
The first results were presented today at the ‘Third Swarm Science Meeting’ in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“I’m extremely happy to see that Swarm has materialised,” said Kristian Pedersen, Director of DTU Space.
This animation shows changes in Earth’s magnetic field from January to June 2014 as measured by ESA’s Swarm trio of satellites.
The magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth, but it is in a permanent state of flux. Magnetic north wanders, and every few hundred thousand years the polarity flips so that a compass would point south instead of north.