Earth’s Magnetic Field Provides Vital Protection


A chance alignment of planets during a passing gust of the solar wind has allowed scientists to compare the protective effects of Earth’s magnetic field with that of Mars’ naked atmosphere. The result is clear: Earth’s magnetic field is vital for keeping our atmosphere in place.

The alignment took place on 6 January 2008. Using ESA’s Cluster and Mars Express missions to provide data from Earth and Mars, respectively, scientists compared the loss of oxygen from the two planets’ atmospheres as the same stream of solar wind hit them. This allowed a direct evaluation of the effectiveness of Earth’s magnetic field in protecting our atmosphere.

They found that while the pressure of the solar wind increased at each planet by similar amounts, the increase in the rate of loss of martian oxygen was ten times that of Earth’s increase.

Such a difference would have a dramatic impact over billions of years, leading to large losses of the martian atmosphere, perhaps explaining or at least contributing to its current tenuous state.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMXWW7YBZG_index_0.html

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