It is estimated that 1.5 million tons of solar material is released by our sun every second. Some of it comes towards Earth, but the strong magnetic shield deflects most of it.
The shield is great at defending the planet, but it has two weaker areas near the poles. In those areas, the magnetic field is converted into a funnel that can absorb solar wind and bring it into the atmosphere. Funnels of this type are known as polar cusps and can lead to some issues since the raw cosmic radiation can hamper the proper functioning of satellite, radio, and GPS signals.
A series of new NASA mission will explore the northern polar cusps in an attempt to learn more about the strange phenomenon and to facilitate the research of new technology that could protect essential assets.
New NASA Initiative Focuses on a Strange Magnetic Phenomenon
The three missions mark the first stage of the Grand Challenge Initiative-Cusp, which involves a total of nine rocket missions. A series of 15-minute flights will allow the researchers to target and explore specific areas near and within the cusp. Two missions will target a section of atmosphere found inside a cusp and considerably denser in comparison to the nearby area.
The zone was discovered in 2004 when a team of researchers found out that a part of the atmosphere found in the cusp was up to 1.5 times heavier than expected. The pressure change is quite significant since a similar phenomenon that took place a ground level would produce a hurricane that would be quite powerful.
Satellites and other spacecraft that fly through the area could face several problems, as their orbit could be altered, and they can be pushed into other nearby objects, leading to mutual destruction. Even a change that seems insignificant could have dire consequences in the long run. It is hoped that the data collected with the help of rockets will be useful in the long run.