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Waspie_Dwarf

Elusive Space Wind Detected

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Cluster spacecraft detects elusive space wind

A new study provides the first conclusive proof of the existence of a space wind first proposed theoretically over 20 years ago. By analysing data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster spacecraft, researcher Iannis Dandouras detected this plasmaspheric wind, so-called because it contributes to the loss of material from the plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region extending above the Earth’s atmosphere. The results are published today in Annales Geophysicae, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

“After long scrutiny of the data, there it was, a slow but steady wind, releasing about 1 kg of plasma every second into the outer magnetosphere: this corresponds to almost 90 tonnes every day. It was definitely one of the nicest surprises I’ve ever had!” said Dandouras of the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France.

The plasmasphere is a region filled with charged particles that takes up the inner part of the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is dominated by the planet’s magnetic field.

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Plasma outflow from plasmasphere to magnetosphere

This animation shows the Earth’s plasmasphere – the innermost part of our planet’s magnetosphere – and the plasmaspheric wind, an outward flow of charged particles. The doughnut-shaped plasmasphere is centred around the Earth’s equator and rotates along with it. The steady plasmaspheric wind continuously transfers material from the plasmasphere into the magnetosphere, releasing about 1 kg of plasma every second – almost 90 tonnes a day – into the outer magnetosphere.

Credit:

ESA/ATG medialab

Source: European Geosciences Union

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