Mysterious Magnetic Portals Connect Earth To The Sun. Could There Be Other Portals Between Planets And Stars, Etc?
Could There Be Other Portals Between Planets And Stars, Etc?
"It's called a flux transfer event or 'FTE,'" says space physicist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn't exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible."
Indeed, today Sibeck is telling an international assembly of space physicists at the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, that FTEs are not just common, but possibly twice as common as anyone had ever imagined.
Researchers have long known that the Earth and sun must be connected. Earth's magnetosphere (the magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet) is filled with particles from the sun that arrive via the solar wind and penetrate the planet's magnetic defenses. They enter by following magnetic field lines that can be traced from terra firma all the way back to the sun's atmosphere.
"We used to think the connection was permanent and that solar wind could trickle into the near-Earth environment anytime the wind was active," says Sibeck. "We were wrong. The connections are not steady at all. They are often brief, bursty and very dynamic."
Several speakers at the Workshop have outlined how FTEs form: On the dayside of Earth (the side closest to the sun), Earth's magnetic field presses against the sun's magnetic field. Approximately every eight minutes, the two fields briefly merge or "reconnect," forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal takes the form of a magnetic cylinder about as wide as Earth. The European Space Agency's fleet of four Cluster spacecraft and NASA's five THEMIS probes have flown through and surrounded these cylinders, measuring their dimensions and sensing the particles that shoot through. "They're real," says Sibeck.
There are many unanswered questions: Why do the portals form every 8 minutes? How do magnetic fields inside the cylinder twist and coil? "We're doing some heavy thinking about this at the Workshop," says Sibeck.
Meanwhile, high above your head, a new portal is opening, connecting your planet to the sun.
NASA collected irregular observations from its THEMIS spacecraft and Europe’s Cluster probes. Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) was originally used to discover the influence of substorms on the development of beautiful auroral displays, witnessed over North America.
Using data from these probe sets, NASA was able to detect the existence of these mysterious magnetic portals at the point at which the Earth’s geomagnetic field interfaces with the highly energetic particles within the solar winds, emanating from the sun. Most of these portals are found to be transient in nature, opening for only brief moments at any given time; on the other hand, other portals can endure for much longer, permitting an influx of energetic particles through its aperture.
When the sun’s solar winds enter these fleeting portals, the result is the heating of the earth’s upper atmosphere, creating what are known as geomagnetic storms. These geomagnetic storms are believed to take place when the solar winds exert a compressive force on the magnetosphere and an interaction between two magnetic fields; that of the earth, and that of the solar winds. This increases the transmission of heated gases through the magnetosphere, which then increases the electric current in this region.
According to NASA’s research, storms are usually triggered when stretched magnetic field lines “snap back,” sending energetic particles hurling back to earth. This can then cause disruption to devices that operate using electricity, including televisions, computers and cell phones. Such interactions may also result in an aurora, due to atoms in the atmosphere becoming energized.
This information has provided astronomers with patterns of readings, pointing towards the location of an X-point and, therefore, a likely portal opening event.
Telescopes.com interviewed a quantum physicist, called Nick Herbert, who explained how to stabilize these portals to use for space travel. Herbert suggests using the negative energy of “Casimir force”:
“… you thread these wormholes with this negative energy, and it props them open… then you can use these things as time tunnels.”
Work on the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission has been ongoing since the portal discoveries back in 2012. The team have recently completed a thorough performance tests on some of the four observatory components, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Flux Transfer Events Beyond Earth
Magnetic fields similar to Earth's are common throughout known space and many undergo similar flux transfer events. During its second flyby of the planet on October 6, 2008, the NASA probe MESSENGER discovered that Mercury’s magnetic field shows a magnetic reconnection rate ten times higher than Earth's. Mercury's proximity to the sun only accounts for about a third of the reconnection rate observed by MESSENGER and the cause of this discrepancy is not currently known.
They're typically located a few tens of thousands of kilometers from Earth where the geomagnetic field meets the onrushing solar wind. Most portals are small and short-lived; others are yawning, vast, and sustained. Tons of energetic particles can flow through the openings, heating Earth's upper atmosphere, sparking geomagnetic storms, and igniting bright polar auroras.
NASA is planning a mission called "MMS," short for Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, due to launch in 2014, to study the phenomenon. Bristling with energetic particle detectors and magnetic sensors, the four spacecraft of MMS will spread out in Earth's magnetosphere and surround the portals to observe how they work.
"In the late 1990s, NASA's Polar spacecraft spent years in Earth's magnetosphere," explains Scudder, "and it encountered many X-points during its mission."
Because Polar carried sensors similar to those of MMS, Scudder decided to see how an X-point looked to Polar. "Using Polar data, we have found five simple combinations of magnetic field and energetic particle measurements that tell us when we've come across an X-point or an electron diffusion region. A single spacecraft, properly instrumented, can make these measurements."
This means that a single member of the MMS constellation using the diagnostics can find a portal and alert other members of the constellation. Mission planners long thought that MMS might have to spend a year or so learning to find portals before it could study them. Scudder's work short cuts the process, allowing MMS to get to work without delay.
NASA funded the University of Iowa for this study, and they are still unclear as to what these portals are. All they have done is observed charged particles flowing through them that cause electro-magnetic phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere.
It's a shortcut worthy of the best portals of fiction, only this time the portals are real. And with the new "signposts" we know how to find them.
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