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Scientists detect crack in Earth’s magnetic field, here is why you should care

A breach in the protective magnetic shield of the earth has been observed by the largest and the most sensitive cosmic ray monitor in the world, the GRAPES -3 muon telescope located in Ooty. The telescope detected a burst of the galactic cosmic radiation, which indicated a crack in the planet’s magnetic shield. The break happened when a massive blast of a giant cloud of plasma which has been ejected by solar corona struck Earth at a very high speed. This resulted in the compression of the magnetic field of Earth and caused a massive geomagnetic storm.

The breach in the magnetic field was detected by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Cosmic Ray Laboratory in Ooty and lasted for two hours. The giant plasma plume ejected by the sun’s corona raced at more than 2.5 million kilometres miles per hour and struck the planet precipitating a massive geomagnetic storm causing radio blackouts in countries situated in the high altitudes. It causes the magnetosphere to be compressed by 11 to 4 times the radius of the Earth.

Why is Earth’s magnetosphere important?

The magnetosphere is imperative for the survival of life on earth, and it protects life on Earth from the continuous flow of solar and galactic cosmic rays. The magnetosphere also ensures that Earth has an atmosphere of life-giving gases like oxygen. Otherwise, the atmosphere will be chiselled off slowly just like on Mars.

The breach happened due to magnetic reconnection allowing the lower energy Galactic cosmic ray particles to enter the atmosphere. This was confirmed by Pravata K Mohanty, a researcher at the GRAPES-3 facility. The planet’s magnetic force bent the cosmic rays by 180 degrees causing it to turn from the day part to the night-side of the Earth where it was picked up as a burst by the radio telescope around midnight on June 22, 2015