Giant Veil of "Cold Plasma" Discovered High Above Earth
2013 02 06

By Dave Mosher | NationalGeographic



Clouds of charged particles stretch a quarter the way to the moon, experts say.

Clouds of "cold plasma" reach from the top of Earth’s atmosphere to at least a quarter the distance to the moon, according to new data from a cluster of European satellites.

Earth generates cold plasma—slow-moving charged particles—at the edge of space, where sunlight strips electrons from gas atoms, leaving only their positively charged cores, or nuclei.

(Find out how cold plasma might also help explain why Mars is missing its atmosphere.)

Researchers had suspected these hard-to-detect particles might influence incoming space weather, such as this week’s solar flare and resulting geomagnetic storm. That’s because solar storms barrage Earth with similar but high-speed charged particles.

Still, no one could be certain what the effects of cold plasma might be without a handle on its true abundance around our planet.

"It’s like the weather forecast on TV. It’s very complicated to make a reasonable forecast without the basic variables," said space scientist Mats André, of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics.

"Discovering this cold plasma is like saying, Oh gosh, there are oceans here that affect our weather," he said.

The Trick to Finding Cold Plasma

Researchers already knew that some cold plasma existed in the ionosphere, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. But few researchers had looked for the clouds between 12,400 and 60,000 miles (20,000 and 100,000 kilometers) high.

André and his colleague Chris Cully suspected the plasma could be out there, but they knew the positive charge of spacecraft wasn’t helping any search efforts.

Similar to the way cold plasma is created, sunlight strips electrons from spacecraft materials, making their hulls positively charged. Like two matching magnetic poles, a spacecraft would simply repulse any cold plasma around it.

To find the stuff, André and Cully instead analyzed anomalies in data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster II spacecraft.

This group of four satellites swings around Earth in a highly elliptical orbit. At the orbit’s peak, the probes reach nearly halfway to the moon.

The enormous distance gives researchers a chance to sweep through and monitor Earth’s magnetic field and electrical activity, including the influence of "hot" charged particles emitted by the sun.

Anomalies in the Cluster II data turned out to be shockwaves from cold plasma particles moving around the satellites.

Cold Plasma a Space Weather "Elephant"

In the end, the pair found that cold plasma makes up between 50 and 70 percent of all charged particles within the farther reaches of Earth’s magnetic field.

André says it’s now time to start updating space-weather models to take the extra cold plasma into account—at this point, for instance, nothing is known about how the plasma might affect solar storms.

This influence is "not a minor thing in space weather," André said. "It’s an elephant in the room."

Article from: news.nationalgeographic.com



Related Articles
Cold Plasma Kills Bacteria Better Than Antibiotics


Latest News from our Front Page

James Foley Beheading: What They’re Not Telling You
2014 08 27
The latest poster child for military expansion in the middle east poses a host of disturbing questions. --- Experts: James Foley Beheading Video Likely Fake By Paul Joseph Watson| Infowars Forensic analysis confirms Infowars investigation that footage was staged as war propaganda Confirming Infowars’ analysis on Thursday, British forensic experts have concluded that the ISIS beheading video involving James Foley was in all likelihood ...
US forces move into Syria as Barack Obama paves way for airstrikes on ISIS
2014 08 27
US forces move into Syria: Obama paves way for airstrikes on ISIS after sending in spy planes - despite Assad warning that any attack will be seen as ’aggression’ Barack Obama has paved the way for airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria after spy planes started operating in the country on his command, according to U.S officials. While the White ...
Stop creating a climate of fear!
2014 08 27
ok. listen up political correct people! if you’re someone who reflexively calls others “racists” or “neofascists” without first checking into whether or not they actually are, you need to STOP it, because you’re creating a climate of fear in which people are afraid to do their jobs. and now i’m not talking about some academics sitting comfortably in their ivy towers, ...
Gov. Jerry Brown to Mexican Illegals: ’You’re All Welcome in California’
2014 08 27
On Monday evening, California Governor Jerry Brown said all Mexicans, including illegal immigrants, are welcome in California. According to the Los Angeles Times, while introducing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said America is "the other Mexico," Brown "spoke about the interwoven histories of Mexico and California." He "nodded to the immigrants in the room, saying it didn’t matter if ...
Election Posters in New Sweden
2014 08 27
Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has promised continued mass immigration at the expense of welfare reform and tax cuts. Reinfeldt’s Moderates party consequently does everything in their power to recruit immigrants’ votes. Placards for the forthcoming elections, widely distributed in immigrant-dominated enclaves in Sweden, has Arabic text, the language that now increasingly is dominating major parts of "New Sweden." In the ...
More News »