A magnetic gateway will open, linking the Earth and the Sun in every 8 minutes

During the time you read this article, something will happen in the sky that many scientists didn’t believe would happen until recently. NASA says that a magnetic doorway will open that will connect the Earth and the Sun, which are 150 million kilometers apart.

Hundreds of thousands of high-energy particles will pass through this gap until it closes, which will happen about the time you reach the bottom of the page.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s space physicist David Seebeck calls it a “flux transfer event” or “FTE.” “In 1998, I was sure they didn’t exist, but the proof is now clear.” In fact, David Seebeck proved their existence in 2008 at a plasma conference in Huntsville, Alabama, when he told a group of space physicists from all over the world about his research.

NASA has found that in the future, these openings between the Sun and the Earth will happen every 8 minutes.

Scientists have thought for a long time that the Earth and the Sun are linked. Through the solar wind, high-energy particles from the Sun get to the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is the magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet, and break through the magnetic shielding.

“We used to think that this connection was permanent and that the solar wind could get into space close to Earth at any time when it was active,” says Seebeck. “We were mistaken. The connections are not at all random, and flares and the speed at which solar particles move have no effect on them. These gates open every 8 minutes.”

Scientists talked about how these gateways are made. On the day side of the Earth, the Earth’s magnetic field is pushed against the Sun’s magnetic field.

Every eight minutes, these two fields briefly “reunite,” making a passageway through which particles can move. The shape of the portal is like a magnetic cylinder that goes all the way around the Earth. Four ESA Cluster spacecraft and five NASA THEMIS probes flew in and around these cylinders, measuring their diameters and keeping track of the particles that went through them.

Seebeck adds, “They are real.” Now that Cluster and THEMIS have looked at gateways in the real world, scientists can use these observations to make computer models of portals and predict how they will act. Jimmy Rader, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire, talked about one of these ideas at a presentation.

He told his coworkers that cylindrical portals start above the equator and then pass through the Earth’s winter pole. In December, gateways between the Sun and the Earth go through the North Pole. In July, the openings between the Sun and the Earth pass over the South Pole.

Seebeck says, “I think there are two kinds of these portals: active and passive.” Active portals are magnetic cylinders that are large energy conductors for the Earth’s magnetosphere. They make it easy for particles to move through and let a lot of energy through.

Passive portals are magnetic cylinders that are more resistant to particles and fields. Their inner structure keeps particles and fields from passing through so easily (Active FTEs are formed at equatorial latitudes when the IMF is directed to the south; passive FTEs are formed at higher latitudes when the IMF is directed to the north). Seebeck has figured out what passive FTEs look like and told his colleagues to look in the THEMIS and Cluster data for clues.

“It’s possible that passive FTEs are important, but we won’t know for sure until we learn more about them.” Many questions remain unanswered: Why do portals show up every eight minutes? How do magnetic fields twist and curl inside a cylinder? Seebeck adds, “We’re giving it a lot of thought.”

At the same time, a new way to get to the sun is opening up high above you. How do you get and send data?


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