A team of experts from NASA has been analyzing an unusual anomaly found in Earth’s magnetic field. There is a large region between South America and southwest Africa where the intensity of the magnetic field is weaker.
The phenomenon has been classified as the South Atlantic Anomaly, and it has puzzled researchers for several years, including experts from NASA. A weaker magnetic shield exposes satellites and spacecraft to charged particles from the sun, which may affect their functionality.
NASA has compared the South Atlantic Anomaly to a dent in the magnetic field of the planet. While life on Earth remains unaffected by tit, spacecraft are vulnerable, including the International Space Station. Due to the way in which the orbits were designed, spacecraft have to pass through the anomaly as they move around the planet.
Exposure to charged particles from the sun could lead to some technological issues, including short-circuits and malfunctions which can appear due to solar radiation that is rich in high-energy protons. In most cases, only minor glitches have been encountered, but the risk of extensive or permanent damage is present.
The prevention of costly damage is one of the reasons for which the anomaly is supervised. Another aim is to further understand what leads to the appearance and development of such phenomena. NASA has access to an impressive array of tools, resources, and research groups that can facilitate such research.
Current research infers that a reservoir of high-density rock located below 2,900 kilometers under Africa might affect the way in which the field is generated, leading to presence of the anomaly. This phenomenon may also be enhanced by the tilts of Earth’s magnetic axis.
A recent study notes that the phenomenon is, in fact, a recurring magnetic effect that surfaced more than 11 million years ago.