From Science Alert: “Astrophysicists have witnessed plasma ripples moving along Earth’s bow shock”

Science Springs

ScienceAlert

Science Alert

20 OCT 2016
JOSH HRALA

1
APS/Carin Cain

These things actually exist.

Astrophysicists have witnessed tiny ripples forming on Earth’s ‘bow shock’ – the plasma shockwaves produced when solar winds smash into Earth’s magnetic field.

While the ripples have long been hypothesised, actually finding them in space has proven a challenge. Now, researchers have been able to study them for the first time, and it could help us to finally understand cosmic rays.

The breakthrough came thanks to thanks to NASA’s Magnetospheric MultiScale satellites (MMS).

NASA/MMS

nasa-mms-satellites
NASA/MMS

“With the new MMS spacecraft we can, for the first time, resolve the structure of the bow shock at these small scales,” said team leader Andreas Johlander, from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF).

So, what are these ripples and where do they come from?

Much of the visible matter in the Universe is actually plasma, a hot ionised gas. This plasma…

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