This Video Will Make You Grateful for the Earth’s Magnetosphere

19 Jun , 2012 by Video

A newly released video from NASA showcases the space agency’s data visualization skills, as well as the dramatic science behind the Sun’s powerful coronal mass ejections and their interactions with the Earth’s magnetosphere and climate. These ejections stripped the lighter elements away from Venus long ago, leaving the planet with a desolate, hostile environment. But in this animation, you can watch as the particles from the solar wind are redirected around the Earth, keeping us safe – and hydrated.

This video is actually an excerpt from a longer video called Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth’s Climate Engine, which is playing at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C; this portion showcases the interaction between the Sun’s solar wind and the Earth’s ocean currents. What’s really amazing about this video is that the underlying data visualizations are based on real satellite observations. The swirling ocean currents were created from real ocean current data.

Still sitting on the fence, finger hovering over the play button, not sure if you should spend a few minutes of your valuable time? You might be interested to know that the video was recently chosen as a “select entry” for the 2012 SIGGRAPH conference, held in Los Angeles on Aug. 5 to 9, 2012. This is the conference where all the film studios showcase their 3D graphics work. A NASA video chosen as a select entry? I like their taste.


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Darnell Clayton
Guest
June 19, 2012 10:22 PM

Makes me glad that I live upon Earth, but it also makes me wonder if terraforming Mars is worth it since it lacks a global magnetic field (although it does boast a large supply of ice and water).

I wonder if a thicker atmosphere could serve as a supplement to a non-existent global magnetic field?

That said thanks for posting the video! I didn’t realize how much of a role our oceans play in maintaining our comfortable climate upon Earth.

gopher65
Member
gopher65
June 20, 2012 1:47 AM

Indeed an atmosphere does protect the surface from cosmic rays and other radiation. But a magnetic field protects the atmosphere itself. If Earth had never had a magnetic field it would have lost about half its water over the past 4 billion years.

That’s not life killing, but it’s a significant. Of course, Venus is closer to the sun than Earth, so it would have been hit with even more solar radiation, having an even greater effect on the amount of water the planet possesses. (It has nearly no water now due to a combination of no magnetic field and close proximity to the sun.)

Dampe
Guest
Dampe
June 20, 2012 2:22 AM

No need to worry about that. Humans won’t ever have the technology to terraform an entire planet. razz

vino
Member
vino
June 20, 2012 4:08 PM

Actually we are terraforming a planet as we speak….our Earth..just not to make it habitable but dehabitable (hope there is a word like that)!!

Dampe
Guest
Dampe
June 21, 2012 1:41 AM

I wouldn’t compare the (supposed) impacts humans have on our planet to the terraforming of Mars grin But i assume your comment was made in jest.

Evan Mathias
Guest
Evan Mathias
June 20, 2012 12:46 PM

One idea was to terraform mars by using many tactical nukes
to begin the process of reactivating the core of mars, freeing water so that millions
of years down the line Mars would become habitable. You can see from this
video how much energy is available to us in space. We could access more of this
energy for our needs, but note that the earth must shield, deflect and reflect
and circulate around the planet to keep this energy in check. An amazing system
we cannot afford to break. Earth is in every way in the right place and time to
be the miracle we have evolved to be able to understand and appreciate.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
June 20, 2012 12:46 PM
As I understand it, it has been modeled that superEarths don’t need a magnetic field to hold on to its atmosphere in ordinary cases (as in, not too close to its star/stars). But as you can see from my longer comment, hydrogen loss is different as it happens so easily. However, as in so many other cases (atmosphere retention, heat distribution, plate tectonics), superEarths have it a lot easier than our marginally sized terrestrial to be habitable.* They easily get strong magnetic fields from diverse rotations (convection, axis rotation, orbital rotation) applied to a conductive liquid core. ——————– * This is the one place where the “Rare Earth” religiously motivated idea has it right – it is likely… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
June 20, 2012 4:21 PM
Terraforming ideas are implausible. We might think of there being some huge n-dimensional space or planetscape which describes all possible planetary surface environments. Each planetary environment is in a basin of attraction, or something similar to a potential well. In order to change the configuration of a planetary environment you have to provide a large amount of energy or change the chemical environment to knock a planetary environment out of its basin and then guide it into another basin. I think it is doubtful we will end up doing these things. There is one planet we are changing however, Earth. With 7 billion of us consuming the planet’s stores of energy and material resources we are changing the… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
June 21, 2012 1:49 PM
I’m not into terraforming and haven’t run the figures, but as I understand it, it has been established that rather small means suffice. This is supposedly what underlies Stanley-Robinson’s “Red-Green-Blue Mars” series. The problem with the theoretical dynamical system stability argument is that it supposes that parameters and constraints are unchanged. But they are not, see our own AGW, so the topology of the system is changeable. Valleys can disappear and new ones appear. As for AGW by the way, I’ll have to nitpick the stated dystopia. I think it is far from established that “we are not making it more livable”. It is a fuzzy question in the first place, since life itself waste geological resources and… Read more »
gopher65
Member
gopher65
June 21, 2012 2:37 PM

I agree. While the current trend of extinctions (from various causes, like ocean acidification) will have a major short term impact, long term (1 ma +) it will have minimal impact. Humans aren’t doing anything today that hasn’t been done to the ecosystem in the past by mass vulcanism or asteroid impacts.

Long term I’m not concerned. Next 100 years I’m not concerned. The next few thousand could be pretty rough though… but only if we technologically regress. If we continue to advance we shouldn’t have any significant problems, beyond some very short term productivity issues (and (initially) nearly insignificant suffering that will be magnified into significance by existing poverty).

Aqua4U
Member
June 20, 2012 8:35 PM

I think terraforming Mars into a surface habitable planet is out of the question with current technology. About the closest we could get would be to build cities in lava tubes. IF and when we conquer fusion and can create planetary scale magnetic fields with that energy.. then maybe~

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
June 20, 2012 12:34 PM
CMEs responsible for atmospheric loss? Likely not. I haven’t kept on top of the Venus Express data, and it seems hard to get a grasp on, so I’m simply hoping this encyclopedic article is a well rounded update: “The relative importance of each loss process is a function of planet mass, atmosphere composition, and distance from a star. A common erroneous belief is that the primary non-thermal escape mechanism is atmospheric stripping by a solar wind in the absence of a magnetosphere. […] Dominant non-thermal loss processes differ based on the planetary body in discussion. The varying relative significance of each process is based on planetary mass, atmospheric composition, and distance from the Sun. The dominant non-thermal loss… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
June 20, 2012 4:01 PM

I think the thrust of the argument is how the solar wind changed the chemistry of the atmosphere. Hydrogen atoms are easy to fling out into space. Carbon and oxygen are less so. Of course Mercury has no atmosphere to speak of, and solar wind could well have stripped off an early atmosphere it might have had.

LC

SnyderJacob
Guest
SnyderJacob
June 20, 2012 7:32 PM

m y frien d’s m oth er-i n-la w ma kes $8 5 eve ry h o ur o n th e co mputer. S h e h as be e n o u t o f a jo b for 6 m ont hs b ut l ast mo nth h er p aych eck w as $ 1 91 77 j ust wo rking on the c omp ute r fo r a fe w h our s. R ea d m or e h er e

?????? (C li ck O n My N am e F or L i n k)
2

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
June 21, 2012 1:18 PM

Yes, but for dense atmospheres solar wind means less as per the article.

Mind, I think Venus Express or some other orbiter has to deliver the ground truth.

Aqua4U
Member
June 20, 2012 8:30 PM

DEFINITELY high end criteria for other habitable planets? MUST HAVE a magnetosphere!

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