Satellites and spacecraft malfunction as Earth’s magnetic field mysteriously weakens
Scientists are finding that the weakening is causing technical problems for satellites, and seems to be growing in its effects.
Earth’s magnetic field, which is vital to protecting life on our planet from solar radiation, is mysteriously weakening.
On average the planet’s magnetic field has lost almost 10% of its strength over the last two centuries, but there is a large localised region of weakness stretching from Africa to South America.
Known as the South Atlantic Anomaly, the field strength in this area has rapidly shrunk over the past 50 years just as the area itself has grown and moved westward.
Over the past five years a second centre of minimum intensity has developed southwest of Africa, which researchers believe indicates the anomaly could split into two separate cells.
The anomaly is causing technical difficulties for satellites orbiting the Earth.
European Space Agency (ESA) scientists from the Swarm Data, Innovation and Science Cluster (DISC) are using data from ESA’s Swarm satellite constellation to study the anomaly.
Swarm satellites are designed to identify and precisely measure the different magnetic signals that make up Earth’s magnetic field.
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