A magnetosphere surrounds Earth, a system of magnetic fields. This vast, comet-shaped system deflects charged particles from the sun, protecting the Earth from harmful particle radiation and preventing solar winds from eroding the atmosphere.
Research done in the past has gathered substantial evidence of the effects that solar wind can have on Earth’s magnetosphere. But the impact of solar flares is poorly understood. They are highly explosive events that can last from a few minutes to hours and can be detected using X-rays or optical devices.
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the U.S and Shandong University in China have recently researched the effects of solar flares on Earth’s magnetosphere. Their research published in Nature Physics offers new vital insights that could help in a better understanding of geospace dynamics. Geospace is the portion of outer space closest to the Earth, including the upper atmosphere, magnetosphere, and ionosphere.
According to Professor Jing Liu, one of the researchers who carried out the study, “The magnetosphere is located in the region above the ionosphere and is the fully ionized space region above 1000 km from the ground.” Solar winds surround the region and are affected and controlled by the solar wind’s magnetic field and the Earth’s magnetic field.
The magnetosphere is the Earth’s protective barrier against solar particles and winds, and it prevents these from entering the Earth’s other protective layers. Past studies have shown that magnetic lines from these two regions can connect when solar wind direction is opposite to the magnetosphere’s magnetic field.
Liu and his colleagues studied data collected by different devices and satellites during a solar flare event on 6 September 2017. The researchers could unveil solar flare effects on magnetospheric dynamics and the electrodynamic coupling between the magnetosphere and the ionosphere. They observed at altitudes between 90 and 150 km a rapid and significant increase in flare-induced photoionization of the polar ionospheric E-region. The phenomenon observed by them appeared to have several effects on the geospace region.