NASA Intern Discovers a New Type of Aurora

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Jennifer Briggs, a physics student at Pepperdine and an intern at NASA, has been studying a three-year-old video of the Arctic sky uncovering a new kind of aurora. Aurora is a natural electrical phenomenon that appears most of the time near the southern or northern magnetic pole from where its name came from: aurora borealis – Northern Lights and aurora australis – Southern Lights. The effect is caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere.

What is unique about the new phenomenon discovered by Briggs is that it happened during a period of calm solar conditions, which means there was no solar storm pushing energy particles across the planet. The new type of aurora appears to be caused by a compression of the Earth’s magnetic field, though; however, it is unclear at this moment what caused that compression.

A new type of Aurora was found ba a NASA intern

One of the theories could be that a region just outside the planet’s magnetic field deflects high-energy particles from the sun. Something pummeled the magnetosphere and pushed the magnetopause inward toward the globe. “You can imagine someone punching Earth’s magnetic field,” Briggs told NASA. “There was a massive but localized compression.” The impact lasts for one minute and 45 seconds.

According to Briggs, NASA could have never anticipated this event; it was the first time that occurred. This type o aurora doesn’t have the same effect as a regular, storm-caused aurora, which can affect GPS, communication devices, satellites and therefore put astronauts orbiting the Earth at risk. However, this new phenomenon shows that there is space weather occurring that scientists have yet to understand. This enigma gives researchers a reason to look more closely and analyze the magnetosphere to find out when they are taking place and what is the cause, as well as how it affects the space at the impact.

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