Probably the best known result of the Earth’s magnetic field is the Northern Lights and Australis (northern and southern lights). When charged particles from the solar wind enter the Earth’s magnetic field, they can occasionally get spectacular light screens.
For years, scientists have thought that the charged particles that cause these visualizations are sent in equal numbers to the North and South Poles.
However, recent research by a team led by scientists at the University of Alberta has shown that there are actually more charged particles heading north and not south. The question now is why?
The data used by the scientists was collected by the constellation of Swarm satellites, a set of 3 satellites that have been observing the Earth’s magnetic field since 2013.
One thing he observed at the time is that the Earth’s magnetic south pole is “farther from the Earth’s axis of rotation than the magnetic north pole,” says Ivan Pakhotin, lead author of the paper.
This leads to differences in the reflection of a type of electromagnetic wave known as Alfvén waves, which ultimately cause differences in the way the north and south poles interact with the solar wind.
This measured asymmetry could mean any number of things. On the one hand, the chemistry that occurs in the upper atmosphere can vary drastically between the north and south poles, which could have significant climatic impacts on the ground. But it could also mean a discrepancy between the two Auroras.
So far the impacts of asymmetry are unclear and, as with almost all good sciences, a subsequent study justifies. Swarm will continue its mission to collect data that is relevant to solving the mystery.
Meanwhile, those of us lucky enough to experience the Auroras themselves can continue to look up in amazement, no matter how different.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.