Feeds

ESA to probe Earth's magnetic field

Satellites to launch in 2009

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

The European Space Agency has announced a satellite mission to study the Earth's magnetic field.

Dubbed Swarm, the mission comprises three satellites which will blast off in a single launcher in 2009. The Swarm constellation will be arranged with two of the satellites flying in a side-by-side pair at an initial altitude of 450km and a single, higher, satellite at 530km.

Swarm will conduct the most detailed survey yet of the planet's protective geomagnetic field, and in particular, how it changes with time. This should provide new insight into the workings of the Earth's interior and climate.

The Earth Science Advisory Committee said that Swarm was chosen from the range of candidate Earth Explorer missions for its scientific excellence.

The satellites' data will provide a unique view 'inside' the Earth. They will take precise and high-resolution measurements of the strength, direction and variation of the magnetic field, which, along with navigation, accelerometer and electric field measurements, will be used to untangle and model the various sources of the geomagnetic field.

The geomagnetic field is what protects us from the bulk of the Sun's harmful radiation. Its effects can be seen at high latitudes as the Aurora Polaris, or the Northern/Southern Lights. The particles in the solar wind carry a charge, so they move along the field lines. When these particles hit gases in Earth's atmosphere, the result is a spectacular light show.

The exact nature of the field is still something of a mystery, however. For instance, we know that the polarity of the field flips every million years or so. Some researchers think we may be seeing the beginning of a flip right now, but the debate is far from settled.

A better understanding of the field will allow for analysis of the Sun's influence in the solar system, and will provide insight into space weather and navigation. ®

Related stories

Clouds cloud climate modelling
Everywhere Broadband scrubs UK satellite plan
Scrap space robots, government urged
Final report on Beagle 2

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.