Feeds

ESA spies space tsunami

We're in it for the pictures

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Have you ever heard of a space tsunami? Neither had we, but apparently they are common and are the forces responsible for making the Earth's aurorae dance.

Credits: Jan Curtis

These magnetic substorms, as they are known, are complex events that take place at altitudes from 100km to 150,000km. ESA says trying to understand such phenomena with a single spacecraft is like trying to predict the behaviour of a tsunami with one buoy in an ocean.

Now data* from the Cluster constellation of four satellites is shedding new light on how these so-called substorms form and how they interact with the Earth's magnetic field.

The image above shows how a substorm can affect an otherwise calm aurora, as seen in the left-hand picture. The centre and right pictures show two different kinds of disruption.

There are two competing explanations for the behaviour of substorms: the "Current-Disruption" model, and the "Near Earth Neutral Line Model". The data from Cluster seem to support the former, ESA says, but the researchers are not in a hurry to throw out the alternative explanations, saying it is unclear how generally the findings should apply.

You can read up on the phenomenon in more detail here. We really just wanted to show you the pretty pictures. ®

*In a paper called Cluster observation of plasma flow reversal in the magnetotail during a substorm, published in Annales Geophysicae, 9 August, 2006.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.