Dent on Earth’s protective magnetic field worries scientists

A dent on Earth’s protective magnetic field is widening and has raised concerns among scientists. American space agency, NASA said the widening dent in the magnetic shield has far-reaching effects on satellites, space missions and navigation.

The dent, which has been present over South America and the South Atlantic Ocean for several decades, is known as the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA). NASA has said the anomaly is now growing and although it will not have an impact on Earth, it can throw navigation in space out of gear.

The magnetic field on which the dent has occurred protects the Earth from particle radiation of the Sun. With the South Atlantic Anomaly widening, the weak spot is letting the harmful particle radiation from Sun come near to the surface. Not only that, this anomaly also affects satellites that pass through the area and tamper with the navigation.

Satellites can be hit with particle radiation from the Sun and they risk suffering short circuit, glitches and permanent damage.

Even the International Space Station (ISS) passes through this area and is forced to shut down systems to avoid risking loss of data and navigation. Satellites passing through this area often shut down systems to avoid such risks. Satellites often lose data of a month or more due to the anomaly.

The European Space Agency (ESA) had said in May that the magnetic field has lost 9% strength over the past 200 years. The weak spot in this shield has further worsened 8% since 1970. Now, NASA has said that the dent is splitting into two lobes.

NASA said the dent was caused due to the processes in the Earth. The tilt of the magnetic axis and the molten core of the Earth both cause the dent in the magnetic field.

Forces in the Earth’s core and the tilt in the magnetic axis together cause the anomaly, leading to the weak spot in the protective magnetic shield.

As the Earth’s North Pole and South Pole are not perfectly aligned, the tilt in the axis lead to this anomaly combined with the motions on the outer layer of the molten core.