NASA's missions reveal the origin of theta auroras

solar-wind-theta
The ESA/NASA Cluster and NASA’s IMAGE missions were in a position around Earth on Sep. 15, 2005, to determine how solar material in the magnetic environment in near-Earth space creates a special kind of high-latitude aurora called a theta aurora. Credit ESA/NASA/SOHO/LASCO/EIT

Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the sun’s effect on Earth, but many aspects of these spectacular displays are still poorly understood. Thanks to the joint European Space Agency and NASA’s Cluster mission combined with data from a past NASA mission called the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE, a particular type of very high-latitude aurora has now been explained.

Known as a theta aurora — because seen from above it looks like the Greek letter theta, an oval with a line crossing through the center — this type of aurora sometimes occurs closer to the poles than normal aurora. While the genesis of the auroral oval emissions is reasonably well understood, the origin of the theta aurora was unclear until now. A paper in the Dec. 19, 2014, issue of Science shows that hot plasma funneled into near-Earth space from the sun helps cause these unique aurora.

“The possibilities have been debated since the first satellite observations of the phenomenon were made in the 1980s,” said Robert Fear of the University of Southampton in the U.K. (formerly at the University of Leicester), and lead author of the Science paper.

Although separated by some 93 million miles, the sun and Earth are connected by what’s known as the solar wind. This plasma – electrically charged atomic particles – streams from the sun and travels across the solar system, carrying its own magnetic field along for the ride.

Depending on how this interplanetary magnetic field is aligned in relationship to Earth’s magnetic field, there can be various results when the solar wind arrives at near-Earths space. At the point where the two fields meet, Earth’s magnetic field points north. If the interplanetary field points in the opposite direction — south — then something called magnetic reconnection occurs, causing magnetic field lines pointing in opposite directions to suddenly realign into a new configuration.

The realignment opens the door so that solar wind material can funnel into the magnetosphere – the giant magnetic bubble surrounding Earth. This is what leads to the aurora, which is produced when the particles funnel down along Earth’s magnetic field lines and strike atoms high in the atmosphere. The interaction with oxygen atoms results in a green or, more rarely, red glow in the night sky, while nitrogen atoms yield blue and purple colors. Normally, the main region for this impressive display is the auroral oval, which lies at around 65-70 degrees north or south of the equator, encircling the polar caps.

But when the interplanetary magnetic field points northward, auroras can occur at even higher latitudes, sometimes resulting in theta aurora. Prior to the recent work, scientists suspected that theta aurora had something to do with the particles observed in the lobe regions of the magnetosphere. The plasma in the lobes is normally cold, but previous observations suggested that theta auroras are linked with unusually hot lobe plasma – but just how was unclear.

“It was unclear whether this hot plasma was a result of direct solar wind entry through the lobes of the magnetosphere,” said Fear. “Or if the plasma is somehow related to the plasma sheet on the night side of Earth. One idea is that the process of magnetic reconnection on the night side of Earth causes a build-up of trapped, hot plasma in the higher latitude lobes.”

The mystery was finally solved by studying data collected simultaneously by the Cluster and IMAGE spacecraft on Sept. 15, 2005. While the four Cluster satellites were located in the southern hemisphere magnetic lobe, IMAGE had a wide-field view of the southern hemisphere aurora. As one Cluster satellite observed uncharacteristically energetic plasma in the lobe, IMAGE saw the arc of the theta aurora cross the magnetic footprint of Cluster.

A theta aurora -- so named because it looks like a Greek letter theta, a circle with a line through the middle -- as seen by NASA's IMAGE satellite on Sept. 15, 2005. New research helps explains what causes these unique events. Credit NASA/R. Fear et al (2014)
A theta aurora — so named because it looks like a Greek letter theta, a circle with a line through the middle — as seen by NASA’s IMAGE satellite on Sept. 15, 2005. New research helps explains what causes these unique events. Credit NASA/R. Fear et al (2014)

The team found that the energetic plasma appeared on high-latitude magnetic field lines that had been closed by the process of magnetic reconnection driven by the northward pointed fields. This in turn caused the plasma to become relatively hot. Such observations support the idea that theta aurora are due to plasma trapped inside the magnetosphere, rather than material being directly pushed in from the solar wind.

“Solving the question of the origin of the theta aurora required Cluster’s high inclination orbit that sweeps over the region where the aurora are generated together with the imaging capability of IMAGE, which is no longer functioning,” said Melvyn Goldstein, Cluster project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Hopefully, future missions will give comparable capabilities to view the polar regions of the magnetosphere.”

Cluster consists of four satellites flying in formation around Earth. The data presented in this report were collected by Cluster-1. The Cluster mission was launched in 2000 and is still operating. IMAGE was launched in 2000 and concluded operations at the end of 2005. The data presented in this report were collected by the satellite’s far-ultraviolet Wideband Imaging Camera.

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December 20, 2014 3:21 pm

Confessions of a Reformed Greenhouse Denier
Evidence supporting the theory of man made climate change is accumulating. Scientists previously from the Penn State University Center for Climate Studies have recently found from study of charred tree ring data that the incomplete burning of wood in the early 15th century had led to a reduction of man-made carbon dioxide leading to the dramatic cooling of the planet. Continued study of increased ice core thickness have led credence to the well accepted theory that possible wood shortages due to mans deforestation may have exacerbated man’s contribution to this decreased CO2 theory of cooling. Other scientific studies expected to be published in prestigious journals such as ‘Climate’ by scientists previously from other prestigious laboratories around the globe have supported the findings that there is 97% agreement in the scientific community of man caused cooling of the planet leading to the well documented ‘little ice age’ beginning in 1500 and lasting until the burst of industrial activity in support of the American Civil war began to rescue the planet from the grips of the serious cooling catastrophe.
Arationofreason

pochas
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 20, 2014 4:28 pm

You write “Confessions of a Reformed Greenhouse Denier”
If you said you were a reformed Greenhouse skeptic, I might have believed you.

u.k.(us)
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 20, 2014 4:28 pm

Makes cents.

AndyE
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 20, 2014 5:41 pm

OK – but what has all that to do with Theta auroras???

Alan Robertson
Reply to  AndyE
December 21, 2014 9:48 am

Well, he mentioned Penn State and they have Michael Mann, so maybe they have some Thetas on campus, too.

Windsong
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 20, 2014 6:00 pm

Where have I seen that 97% number before? Sounds familiar.

DougT
Reply to  Windsong
December 21, 2014 1:46 am

It comes from the well known fact that 97% of all statistics are made up on the spur of the moment.

Paul Courtney
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 21, 2014 7:09 am

Such a tiny ration, have you lefties formed some theory that “reason” is a limited resource, and we are somehow past its “peak”? Bet it’s being peer-reviewed at this moment.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Paul Courtney
December 22, 2014 11:25 am

Somehow you stepped on one letter and it tipped over. Did you mean “beer-reviewd”?

Lars P.
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 21, 2014 7:16 am

Only a mindless bot or a throughout troll posts off topic but “on message”.
There are plenty of posts where you could discuss your “theories”, but hey, thanks for reminding me of Josh’s 13 post 🙂
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/3/19/josh-13.html

Shinku
Reply to  Ronald Chappell
December 29, 2014 3:41 am

Many words I want to exchange with you but I don’t want to be a broken record. How about I gather a committee of white coats and have them all agree that you are wrong. Since this majority of busy bodies outnumber you ( like most socialists, mob feelings is the only truth ). We conclude that you are wrong.

Neil Dunn
December 20, 2014 3:21 pm

The below may be a new item to add to the list of what climate change causes.
http://news.sciencemag.org/climate/2014/12/less-tasty-shrimp-thanks-climate-change

blogagog
December 20, 2014 3:23 pm

“Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the sun’s effect on Earth”
I disagree. I think daylight is the most visible.

Reply to  blogagog
December 20, 2014 6:51 pm

This article appears to be done by a WAPO trained journalist.

BobJ
Reply to  blogagog
December 21, 2014 8:06 am

Thank you. Saved me from commenting the same thought about the opening line.

KTM
Reply to  blogagog
December 21, 2014 8:29 am

I was thinking the same thing…

December 20, 2014 3:28 pm

The team found that the energetic plasma appeared on high-latitude magnetic field lines that had been closed by the process of magnetic reconnection driven by the northward pointed fields
This is typical of the breathless press releases we often get. But it is old news. My adviser at the U. of Copenhagen the late Knud Lassen observed these aurorae extensively ~50 years ago [they were first observed much earlier in 1916] and showed that they occurred during reconnecting northward pointing fields, thus trapped and hot. BTW, the orientation of the ‘cross polar cap’ arcs depends on the polarity of the interplanetary field as it modifies the current systems in the polar cap [the Svalgaard-Mansurov effect].
Here is one of Lassen’s publications on this http://www.leif.org/EOS/jgra4540-Lassen-Aurorae.pdf

jmorpuss
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 20, 2014 3:42 pm

Leif here’s anotherhttp://www.everythingselectric.com/forum/index.php?topic=245.0

jmorpuss
Reply to  jmorpuss
December 20, 2014 3:43 pm
Reply to  jmorpuss
December 20, 2014 3:43 pm

Looks like nonsense to me.

Streetcred
Reply to  jmorpuss
December 20, 2014 7:52 pm

LOL, I can imagine Leif’s school teacher sending home his year-end report, “Leif is a very gifted student but he needs to work on his sincerity.”

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 6:56 am

“Looks like nonsense to me.”
This read as if from the mouth of Tony Beets, minus the expletives of course!
I realize that the accents might be completely different, but it did make me smile!

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 20, 2014 3:44 pm

Hall and Pederson currents also criss-cross polar region. Are they part of the effect under consideration?
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/24/Schematic-of-combined-FACs-and-ionospheric-current-systems.png

Reply to  vukcevic
December 20, 2014 3:46 pm

Nope

Reply to  vukcevic
December 20, 2014 3:48 pm

Theta aurorae are relatively rare. The Pedersen and Hall currents are there all the time

Santa Baby
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 20, 2014 9:53 pm

Lapps in Nothern Norway tell their children that it’s the spirit of their forefathers and that “it” will come down and beat the children if they don’t behave.

December 20, 2014 3:34 pm

Robert Fear, hmmm, with name like that he should be publishing papers on the Catastrophic Antro-Global Warming. (oi, what about vukcevic !?)

RoHa
December 20, 2014 4:28 pm

I thought Thetans willed themselves into existence trillions of years ago. A lot of the Thetans around us are left over from when Xenu killed members of the Galactic Confederacy with hydrogen bombs. Or so Ron Hubbard tells us.

Reply to  RoHa
December 20, 2014 5:41 pm

The Thetans spoke with a lisp…we know them now as Satans…yeh, there’s a lot left over..

eyesonu
December 20, 2014 4:30 pm

This is interesting. I have read several explanations of various concepts of the earth’s magnetic field and plasma from the sun. One was from a paper by Leif which I believe was dated in the early 1970’s. I’ve been digging the ‘net on multiple occasions over the years to learn more.
I hope this thread will bring forth some interesting comments. True science only please 😉
So much to learn and so little time to learn it.

jmorpuss
Reply to  eyesonu
December 20, 2014 5:07 pm

“The “northern lights” are caused by collisions
between fast-moving particles (electrons) from space
and the oxygen and nitrogen gas in our atmosphere.
These electrons originate in the magnetosphere, the
region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field.
As they rain into the atmosphere, the electrons impart
energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules, making
them excited. When the molecules return to their
normal state, they release photons, small bursts of
energy in the form of light.”
http://pwg.gsfc.nasa.gov/polar/telecons/archive/PR_E-PO/Aurora_flyer/aurora-flyer_p2.doc.pdf

Genghis
Reply to  eyesonu
December 20, 2014 5:49 pm

Yeah I looked up the Hall and Pedersen currents and found the ionospheric dynamo region, cool stuff like atmospheric tides, current generating fields, migrating solar tides. Who knew?

eyesonu
Reply to  eyesonu
December 20, 2014 6:39 pm

Genghis,
If we can get Leif to provide a link to his research from the 1970’s on the magnetic field around the Earth as a result of solar winds it is a good place to start to ‘know more’. I followed a link from WUWT and it was very informative with graphics etc. Gave me enough understanding to follow discussions that were previously way over my head. I would like to read it again.
How about it Leif, there are many others now onboard WUWT that could gain from your earlier research.

jmorpuss
Reply to  eyesonu
December 20, 2014 6:58 pm

eyesonu check this out . it runs for about 1 hour

Reply to  eyesonu
December 20, 2014 8:33 pm

The decade 1962-1972 was sort of the formative years of the current paradigm of the interaction. Not much new has been added since. Our detailed understanding has been ‘fleshed out’, of course, but the zone of discovery has moved on to the outer solar system and planets [including around other stars]. Here are a few overviews of the early work [produced with the technology of the day]:
http://www.leif.org/research/Geomagnetic-Response-to-Solar-Wind.pdf
http://www.leif.org/research/suipr699.pdf
http://www.leif.org/research/A%20View%20of%20Solar%20Magnetic%20Fields,%20the%20Solar%20Corona,%20and%20the%20Solar%20Wind%20in%20Three%20Dimensions.pdf
There is today an immense amount of stuff on the internet, some good, and some very bad, c.f. a comment upthread. Here is one of the better ones: http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/Intro.html

eyesonu
Reply to  eyesonu
December 20, 2014 10:13 pm

Thanks Leif,
The first link you provided, Geomagnetic-Response-to-Solar-Wind.pdf, was the one I read a few years ago. It opened my eyes/mind to another world so to speak. I will read it again and look at the others too.

wayne Job
Reply to  eyesonu
December 21, 2014 4:07 pm

Eyesonu, For real science that is not controlled by gate keepers google Miles Mathis.

Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 4:58 pm
u.k.(us)
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 5:10 pm

That looks more like a depiction than a picture ?

Dawtgtomis
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 5:59 pm
earthdog
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 6:11 pm

Pic or depiction, it’s impressive.

u.k.(us)
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 6:14 pm

I’m not say’n , but there are sun shadows from the mountain peaks in the background.
You don’t see aurora in the daylight, or are those moonlight shadows ?
It just don’t look right.
Cheers.

Dawtgtomis
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 6:38 pm

Does remind one of the miracle of Photoshop.

Santa Baby
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 9:58 pm

the light is from a city

Santa Baby
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 10:01 pm

And the shadow is from the aurora.

December 20, 2014 5:15 pm

Of course there is also the question of how electrical solar interactions with earth affect temperature.

Dawtgtomis
Reply to  wickedwenchfan
December 20, 2014 6:29 pm

It’s hard to find data on the shielding effect of solar plasma from cosmic radiation, which could be enhancing high cloud formation and providing negative forcing of temperature. The theory seems logical here: http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2013/sep/09/physicists-claim-further-evidence-of-link-between-cosmic-rays-and-cloud-formation

Louis
December 20, 2014 5:42 pm

It looks like a “No Entry” sign to me. The question is, what direction is it facing? Is it warning Earthlings not to enter space, or is it warning space travelers not to exit the galactic highway onto Earth because there are no services here?

mjc
Reply to  Louis
December 20, 2014 7:00 pm

Cue “Dueling Banjos”…

December 20, 2014 6:21 pm

Claiming magnetic reconnection as an explanation is tantamount to saying ghosts and goblins explain it.

Dawtgtomis
Reply to  Mark
December 20, 2014 7:17 pm

Here’s what Princeton says:
http://mrx.pppl.gov/Physics/physics.html

Dawtgtomis
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 7:26 pm

What I find curious is that this phenomenon seems to happen more towards the equator of the sun rather than close to the poles, as on earth. Any perspective on this, Dr. Svalgaard?

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 8:39 pm

Reconnection happens all over the place where magnetized plasma is in motion. We can even make it the laboratory. See e.g. http://www.leif.org/EOS/yamada10rmp.pdf

Johanus
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 21, 2014 5:49 am

Yet there appears to be no formal, mathematical definition of magnetic reconnection given in the Yamada paper. Perhaps I missed it, skimming rapidly through it. Where is “magnetic reconnection” formally defined?
There’s a nice schematic on page 605, illustrating the concept of reconnection. But, IMO, that’s just the same as hand waving and talking about magnetic “lines” of force. Such lines are isopleths, like isobars on a weather chart. The lines don’t appear in a physical sense, but can be formally defined and are useful for understanding the underlying physics.
I suspect it’s a lot like frontogenesis in meteorology. Weather “fronts” are hard to understand intuitively and difficult to “see” in the world around us. But they can be formally defined and detected numerically as deformations in pressure and temperature gradients.
In fact the figure 3 on page 605 looks a lot like the deformations seen in frontogenesis. E.g. look at slide 8 in this lecture: http://weather.cod.edu/~sirvatka/meso/frontogenesis_talk_030716.ppt
Not surprising perhaps that magneto-hydrodynamics and meteo-hydrodynamics could be intertwined.

Johanus
Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 21, 2014 6:19 am

… could be intertwined in an abstract mathematical sense.

Reply to  Dawtgtomis
December 21, 2014 6:25 am

http://www.leif.org/EOS/Yamada-Reconnection-2007.pdf contains the mathematical theory, but more important is that Magnetic Reconnection is a experimental, observable fact in the laboratory, e.g. http://mrx.pppl.gov/

ossqss
December 20, 2014 7:36 pm
eyesonu
Reply to  ossqss
December 20, 2014 10:38 pm

Thanks for the link. I found this interesting from somewhere following your link http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/stereo-entering-new-stage-of-operations/#.VJZohv86AKA and it offered a good description of the Stereo satellites. Worth a look.

Dawtgtomis
December 20, 2014 7:46 pm

So, is magnetic reconnection a type of atmospheric capacitance?

December 20, 2014 10:56 pm

“As one Cluster satellite observed uncharacteristically energetic plasma in the lobe, IMAGE saw the arc of the theta aurora cross the magnetic footprint of Cluster.”
How energetic is “uncharacteristically energetic” plasma? In keV?
Which direction is the acceleration in the transpolar aurora, toward earth or away from earth?
What is the ionic composition of the theta aurora? Is it different from the oval aurora?
Has there been a theta aurora during this solar cycle? Has there been an event since 2010?
It looks interesting.

Steve B
December 21, 2014 1:10 am

There is no such thing as magnetic reconnection. Anyone who does Electrical Engineering specializing in electro-magnetics know this. Astro Physicists use this term because they don’t understand magnetic fields and they also don’t understand the nature of plasma.

Reply to  Steve B
December 21, 2014 4:30 am

simply electric currents short circuit (solar ejected moving charged particles-plasma is a current, generating associated magnetic field)

Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 6:09 am

A plasma is electrically neutral, so elected plasma is not a current.

jmorpuss
Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 7:46 am

Not all plasma is electrically neutral http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_(physics)
“Plasma with a magnetic field strong enough to influence the motion of the charged particles is said to be magnetized.”

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 7:51 am

From your link:
“Plasma is loosely described as an electrically neutral medium”

jmorpuss
Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 8:15 am

Since plasmas are very good electrical conductors, electric potentials play an important role. The potential as it exists on average in the space between charged particles, independent of the question of how it can be measured, is called the “plasma potential”, or the “space potential”. If an electrode is inserted into a plasma, its potential will generally lie considerably below the plasma potential due to what is termed a Debye sheath. The good electrical conductivity of plasmas makes their electric fields very small. This results in the important concept of “quasineutrality”, which says the density of negative charges is approximately equal to the density of positive charges over large volumes of the plasma (n_e = \langle Z\rangle n_i), but on the scale of the Debye length there can be charge imbalance. In the special case that double layers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_layer_(plasma) are formed, the charge separation can extend some tens of Debye lengths.

Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 9:26 am

Of course Leif, “A plasma is electrically neutral, so elected plasma is not a current.”
So that is why the heliospheric CURRENT sheet cannot possibly exist, right!?
From NASA:
http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/wcurrent.html
From Hannes Alfven: http://www.springer.com/astronomy/astrophysics+and+astroparticles/book/978-90-277-1151-9
Astrophysics and Space Sciences Library:
http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/0-306-47719-X_9
LEIF SVALGAARD – this is getting very tiresome to hear you continually denigrate participants here who talk about electric currents in space, when I know that you know for a fact that there are electric currents in space! ….and not just the currents at the polar caps either.
I suppose from your line of thinking that the ring current that Dst responds to doesn’t exist either!?

Reply to  Bob Weber
December 21, 2014 11:26 am

There most certainly can be currents in space. These currents are generated locally by changes in the magnetic field, e.g. across the heliospheric magnetic sector boundaries or charges bouncing back and fourth in the Van Allen belts through the varying strength of the geomagnetic field, or by magnetic reconnection. Anything interesting that happen is almost always due to large-scale electric currents, but the key insight is that those currents are consequences of changing magnetic fields.

Reply to  Steve B
December 21, 2014 6:08 am

Don’t pretend to be ignorant. Of course, there is reconnection. We can make it happen in the laboratory: http://www.leif.org/EOS/yamada10rmp.pdf

Johanus
Reply to  Steve B
December 21, 2014 6:12 am

There is no such thing…
So ,no True Electrical Engineer believes in M.R.?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

December 21, 2014 8:12 am

Θ, θ stuff is interesting . . . .
It is nice to get away for brief moment from the earthly climate paranoia.
Leif, a Happy Holiday Season to you. Thanks for your critique that helps in understanding the lead post.
John

Alan Robertson
Reply to  John Whitman
December 21, 2014 10:09 am

Agreed! Happy Holidays to Leif and your family. Many thanks for your participation here at WUWT.

December 21, 2014 9:16 am

Normally plasma is a conducting medium of a neutral charge (equal amount of both types), but separation of incoming plasma charges takes place at the Earth’s magnetopause. From then on charges move within the Earth’s magnetic field, and doing so generate electric potential and electric currents.
Two currents (one for each type of charge) are kept separate by the surrounding magnetic field, but can be forced together (‘short circuited’ releasing energy) by much stronger external field e.g. generated by incoming CME’s proton current (‘reconnection’ takes place at the far end of the magnetosphere’s tail, where the Earth’s field is much weaker); the event got mislabeled as ‘magnetic reconnection’

Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 9:48 am
Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 11:18 am

One way to disseminate nonsense is to mix it with something that is correct. You are a master at that. What you describe is not quite how it works and there is no mislabeling. Reconnection is the mechanism by which energy is fed into the magnetosphere and also the mechanism by which that energy is released. It is too tiresome to try for the umpteenth time to make you understand anything, so I’ll just refer to the links I have already given.

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 11:58 am

Now, now …‘tis the season to be jolly’, so I’ll join JW and AR from the above, and wish you a happy Xmas.

Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 12:10 pm

Here is an Xmas gift to you: http://www.leif.org/EOS/jgra51476-Reconnected.pdf
Study the Introduction carefully:
“Magnetic reconnection is a universal physical process that occurs in magnetized plasmas throughout the heliosphere and beyond, involving a change in the connectivity of magnetic field lines which changes the overall topology of the magnetic field. Magnetic reconnection between the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) and the Earth’s magnetic field occurs at the Earth’s magnetopause and is the main mechanism for the transfer of mass, energy, and momentum from the solar wind into the Earth’s magnetosphere. This reconnection typically alters the topology of the magnetosphere, changing some magnetic field lines from a “closed” type, with both ends intersecting the Earth, to an “open” type, with one end connected to the IMF. This leads to an expansion of the polar cap—the enclosed dark region of the ionosphere poleward of the auroral oval—that almost exclusively contains open magnetic flux. Some of the open flux is ultimately reclosed by reconnection in the magnetotail…”

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 12:22 pm

To return to the topic: in the “auroral oval—that almost exclusively contains open magnetic flux” the ‘almost’ refers to the existence of the theta aurorae that are on closed field lines.

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 1:31 pm

Some dispute existence of magnetic field lines, one could google examples of opposing views, but as a practical engineer I have never came across one, so I am in the anti-camp. Presence of MF ‘lines’ imply discontinuity in between lines, unless they are infinitesimally closely spaced, in which case serve no purpose except as an aid to illustration or teaching; ergo in my view if ‘lines’ do not exist, they cannot reconnect, an effect that electric currents have no problem with.
True, for the magnetospheric ‘reconnection effect’ two magnetic fields are required (lines or no lines), but only in the presence of electric currents, and as I gather from your link that is case in the lab too.

Reply to  vukcevic
December 21, 2014 3:06 pm

Only people who do not know what they are talking about dispute this. You can actually ‘see’ the lines, e.g. http://sdowww.lmsal.com/sdomedia/SunInTime/2014/12/21/l_HMImag_171.jpg
In a plasma, the lines are illuminated by matter frozen onto them. In that sense the field lines acquire reality by virtue of the plasma attached to them: move the plasma and the field line moves with it. Blow away the plasma into space and you get a solar wind with embedded field lines stretching across the solar system. An energetic particle [e.g. eject from a solar flare] will gyrate around the now real field line and follow it nicely.
You have never lived inside a plasma so you will never have come across one. When field lines merge [because the plasma that carry them are pressed together] electric currents in a very small region are generated to allow the reconnection. Actually, what happens is that the infinite conductivity that the plasma has breaks down [particle gyration begins to overlap between the two regions with opposite magnetic fields] and a thin line or plane [depending on the geometry] develops electrical resistance, which is what allows the current to flow and removes the grip on the field lines the plasma had. All this is well understood and can be readily demonstrated in a laboratory setting and observed in situ in space. The willful ignorance you profess is no argument against the observational facts.

jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 3:49 pm

Leif Do you see the earth’s first line of resistance at the bow shock or at the magnetosphere
http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cairns/teaching/lecture13/node5.html
I wish you took the time to read this http://www.everythingselectric.com/forum/index.php?topic=245.0
Down the page it explains how on the night side reconnection takes place . But if your here to promote your own work , then I’m wasting my time

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 4:00 pm

Leif Do you see the earth’s first line of resistance at the bow shock or at the magnetosphere
The magnetopause [part of the magnetosphere] is where the two fields interact.
But if your here to promote your own work , then I’m wasting my time
I am NOT here to promote my own work. Just to tell the folks what we have learned the past 50 years.
You waste your time reading the EU stuff. Here is one of the worst howlers:
“the sun sends its charged plasma wind (solar wind) towards the earth. when it reaches the earth it is travelling at over 1 million kmh. on the earths nightside there is a region where the plasma wind suddenly goes into reverse and accelerates TOWARDS the earth at over 300 kmh.”
Your links contains pure nonsense. Now, a lot of people are firm believers of all kinds of nonsense, so you are in good company.

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 4:28 pm

Leif
What created the magnetism that formed earth (and if you say gravity your no different than a flat earther in modern times ) The way to create a magnetic field is to apply a electric current . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC33Ynnzihg

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 4:41 pm

Magnetism didn’t form the Earth. Gravity did [mostly]. How does one get an electric current?
Usually by moving a conductor across a magnetic field [a dynamo “The operating principle of electromagnetic generators was discovered in the years of 1831–1832 by Michael Faraday. The principle, later called Faraday’s law, is that an electromotive force is generated in an electrical conductor which encircles a varying magnetic flux”], so the question becomes: “where did the very first magnetic fields come from?” This is presently not known, although there are ways of doing it. Here is one: http://www.leif.org/research/The-Origin-of-Magnetic-Fields.pdf and there are others. Note, that gravity did it.

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 4:48 pm

Here is link to an easy-to-understand explanation: http://atropos.as.arizona.edu/aiz/teaching/nats102/mario/solar_system.html

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 5:22 pm

Leif thanks for the link BUT I see the solar system working like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jHsq36_NTU

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 7:43 pm

Already Galilieo knew that what you see is wrong. His image was that of a fly flitting around in the Captain’s cabin of a sailing ship [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galilean_invariance ]. The astronauts going to the moon and spacecrafts going to Mars and the other planets don’t see the vortex either. You display a sad example of the scientific illiteracy that is so prevailing today. Now, that is no shame, but willful ignorance [and being proud of it] is an abomination.

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 5:34 pm
Reply to  jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 7:52 pm

is this why we are not drawn into the sun
No, because our orbiting the sun has nothing to do with any electric field. Gravity, my friend, is balanced by the centripetal force of the sideways velocity in the orbit.

jmorpuss
December 21, 2014 3:59 pm

Vukcevic
Didn’t the experiment with a bar magnet ,paper and iron filings prove the existence of magnetic field lines. You might not see them with the naked eye but their there .

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 1:46 am

MF lines are ok for illustration purpose, since it may be difficult to visualise 3D geometry of the field otherwise, they are suppose to present gradual and not discrete change in the field intensity. If there were discrete field lines, hadron collider couldn’t work, since the discontinuity in the field would prevent precise focusing of the particle beams. Axial currents and magnetic field in plasma layers are not MF lines.
Iron filing is turned into many individual tiny magnets which mutually attract (gather) and repel (remove) creating a standard ‘interference’ pattern. Boundary conditions are set by a paper sheet presence, not due to presence of any physical lines, since field around bar magnet is continuous, remove the paper and see all the ‘lines’ collapse.

Reply to  vukcevic
December 22, 2014 5:37 am

Field lines are, of course, continuous and not discrete, but you ignore the fact that in a plasma things are different. The magnetic field is frozen into the plasma. And the plasma can be discrete [‘flux ropes’].

Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2014 6:41 am

Flux ropes (also flux tubes) are not ‘lines’, they are three dimensional entities with electrically and magnetically predetermined cross-sections.

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 2:24 am

Genius of Nikola Tesla was in the extremely rare ability to visualise three dimensional magnetic fields and electromagnetic forces and their interactions with no aid of field lines or even paper sketches, which he only used as reminder the way many of us use our shopping list. Try to imagine field around simple bar magnet (ignoring lines from memory), after while my brain ‘hurts’.

December 21, 2014 9:31 pm

Powerful auroras are associated with geomagnetic storms.
Unless there is a recent transpolar (theta) aurora, there is no way to look at other contributing variables – perhaps something could have whacked the earth’s magnetosphere.

Mervyn
December 22, 2014 12:58 am

Watch the following NASA science video (and pay particular attention to the role of CO2, as explained by NASA, based on its SABER instrument located on its TIMED satellite):
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/solarstorm-power.html

December 22, 2014 5:36 am

In a plasma, the lines are illuminated by matter frozen onto them. In that sense the field lines acquire reality by virtue of the plasma attached to them: move the plasma and the field line moves with it. Blow away the plasma into space and you get a solar wind with embedded field lines stretching across the solar system.
yea, yea … as much as the cloud droplets get frozen and attached to isobars, with the westerlies blowing clouds and stretching isobars all across the Atlantic.

Reply to  vukcevic
December 22, 2014 6:58 am

Willful ignorance is a terrible thing. Will you ever learn?

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 22, 2014 6:48 pm

Leif are you a believer of this or only the sun delivers heat to earth?
http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2011/jul/19/radioactive-decay-accounts-for-half-of-earths-heat

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 22, 2014 9:45 pm

The interior of the Earth delivers some milliWatt of which half was generated by gravity long ago, but the amount is minuscule. Even star shine heats the Earth, but much less, of course.

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 2:31 am

The temperature at the centre of earth is about 6000 C close to the temperature of the surface of the sun isn’t it ? http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/1606/20130426/earths-core-temperature-hellish-6-000-degrees-celsius-new-study.htm

Carla
Reply to  vukcevic
December 22, 2014 6:19 pm

vukcevic
December 22, 2014 at 5:36 am
yea, yea … as much as the cloud droplets get frozen and attached to isobars, with the westerlies blowing clouds and stretching isobars all across the Atlantic.
lsvalgaard
December 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm
Only people who do not know what they are talking about dispute this. You can actually ‘see’ the lines, e.g. http://sdowww.lmsal.com/sdomedia/SunInTime/2014/12/21/l_HMImag_171.jpg
In a plasma, the lines are illuminated by matter frozen onto them. In that sense the field lines acquire reality by virtue of the plasma attached to them: move the plasma and the field line moves with it. Blow away the plasma into space and you get a solar wind with embedded field lines stretching across the solar system. An energetic particle [e.g. eject from a solar flare] will gyrate around the now real field line and follow it nicely.
Picture is worth a thousand words Vuks.. Did you look at it?
Wish we knew more about the solar Interplanetary Magnetic Field reconnection with the Interstellar Magnetic Field and how that might alter flow regimes through the solar system. Maybe the big dent in the front end of the heliosphere bubble will provide some clues.. Shifts in the gravitational focusing function of the sun..
Couple of Earth directed solar CMEs or wind bursts (hits or misses) will mess around with the downwind helium/neon focusing cone that Earth should be orbiting through around this time of year.. Is nice to have a sunny day around these parts now and again..

Reply to  Carla
December 23, 2014 5:52 am

Hi Carla
And what is cross-section of those ‘lines’, hundreds possibly thousands of miles? a line has infinitesimally small cross-section.
What is visible and what you see are not magnetic ‘lines’, they are (electric &) magnetic flux-tubs.
Flux tubes are often associated with sunspots. FT exit photosphere into the solar corona it ‘arcs’ through corona and enters back into the photosphere.
Again. what you see are not a magnetic ‘lines’ of any kind, but the walls of the magnetic flux tube (with cross-section hundreds possibly thousands of miles), they are vortices created by circulating electric currents.

jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 4:36 pm

Leif
I got this from a discussion you had on another thread on WUWT
Leif Svalgaard
September 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Nogw (13:35:39) :
And those Fe lines in sunspots’ spectrum?
Very, very little magnetism come from Iron. For once, iron loses its magnetism above the Curie temperature of 768°C, and the Sun is hot. Solar magnetism does not come from iron, nor does that of the Earth. Both are generated by a dynamo, that rely on plasma movements to amplify an existing magnetic field. A good [and partly unanswered] question is where the very first magnetic fields in the Universe came from [if you say they were generated from currents, then the question becomes where the currents came from], but that is irrelevant for the everyday working of reconnection as we speak.
But, again, this is not the place for discussing the pseudo-science behind the electric plasma thunderbolt universe. There are tons of websites that can mislead you to your hearts delight. But they do not belong on this serious ‘best science’ blog.
Does the ion core become a negatively charged monopole magnet and emit negative charge Fe ion to space via the south pole which is the earth’s north pole and then reconnect .

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 9:52 pm

Your comment does not make much sense as written. Gravity and magnetism are not related. If you can show they are, hurry to Stockholm to pick up your Nobel prize. The Earth formed from stuff that never has been in the Sun. I don’t understand you comment. I wonder if you do…

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 9:55 pm

No, it does not become a monopole and the ‘process’ you describe does not take place [or rather: does not make any sense].

jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 4:38 pm
jmorpuss
December 22, 2014 7:31 pm

Leif When I read Coulomb’s Law I see gravity as nothing more than magnetism at the nano scale. If Earth formed from a cloud of gas and dust and IRON was the first thing to for mass , wouldn’t the sun’s gravity drag it back into the sun because of the difference in temperature and mass, way before it formed earth the way we know it?

J.H.
December 22, 2014 9:48 pm

It would seem that the significance of these data indicates that there is an Electrical component to the dynamic of the Universe….. I also see the scientific “language” beginning to reflect this, where once it was taboo.
I am not forming an opinion or making a statement, I am simply remarking upon my observations.

Reply to  J.H.
December 22, 2014 9:57 pm

There is no Electrical Component. Electric currents can be generated locally as needed in response to changes of magnetic fields, but do not have any large-scale organization.

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 22, 2014 10:23 pm

Leif Would the hydrogen atom exist without the electrons wising around the proton? I see the electrons purpose is to create separation (fission) And electric potential is what space is.

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 22, 2014 10:29 pm

Atoms are neutral entities consisting of a positively charged nucleus surrounded by a ‘cloud’ of negative electrons. Hydrogen atoms are rare in the Universe as most are disassociated into their nucleus [called a proton] and the electron. Electrons don’t have a ‘purpose’. Invest in a book about elementary physics [there are many] and learn a bit in a more organized way than using this forum.

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 22, 2014 10:55 pm

Leif Thanks for the interaction. I will take your advice and stop frustrating you with my questions and go read some more . Cheers and I hope you and your family have a happy Christmas
Sorry if I upset you it wasn’t my intent

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 22, 2014 11:41 pm

Asking questions is always worthwhile, but is also not very efficient. Much better is to study a good book, and THEN ask questions about problem areas. You did not upset me the least.

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 12:21 am

No, but the effects are well-known. I don’t think the technical level is suitable for you. There are many much better ones, e.g. http://www.amazon.com/The-Space-Astronomy-Astrophysics-Library/dp/3540769528

jmorpuss
Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 1:12 am

Leif I think the link to that book is very important when trying to understand this .
http://climateviewer.com/2014/03/26/cloud-ionization-electric-rainmaking-laser-guided-weather-modification/

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 5:49 am

Undoubtedly. However, I think your understanding will not be furthered by the high level of technical details given.

December 23, 2014 10:01 am

Leif please check out the facts on Ionospheric Heaters here: http://climateviewer.com/haarp/ and a details research timeline on magnetospheric and ionospheric modification here: http://climateviewer.com/space-weather-control/

Reply to  rezn8d
December 23, 2014 10:23 am

Why should I do that? Do you have a specific problem you need help with?

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 11:28 am

Knowledge is power friend. I would think you would be interested in the facts behind men altering our planet’s forcefield… little known history.

Reply to  rezn8d
December 23, 2014 11:41 am

I am interested as I have been a small part of this …. working on communicating with submarines by modulating the power grid … but mankind has been altering our planet for thousands of years… nothing new.

jmorpuss
Reply to  rezn8d
December 23, 2014 12:08 pm

rezn8d and Leif I wounder if America and Canada under attack from this weather altering process .
https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/file/index/docid/316449/filename/angeo-16-1212-1998.pdf

jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 12:17 pm

A cold war springs to mind America put sanctions on Russia and Russia’s response alter the jet stream.

jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 1:05 pm

Leif
When the sun is in a weak phase and doesn’t supply enough energy to earth’s core and it cools not by much does the planet shrink a bit . The result would be slight sea level rise , earth quakes , volcanoes going off and foul weather because more low pressure systems form . I see the earth like a capacitor, when the solar wind is strong earth stores energy and we get more high pressure systems and good weather. And when it’s weak earth releases energy low pressure and what we see is more foul weather .

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 2:43 pm

The Sun doesn’t heat the Earth’s core significantly and any variation with time is completely damped out anyway as heat slowly, slowly makes its way inwards, so no geo effects are to be expected and certainly not on any time scales we care about. Time you read some of them books… 🙂

December 23, 2014 1:37 pm

“I am interested as I have been a small part of this …. working on communicating with submarines by modulating the power grid …”
I think Dr S may be speaking about the ZEVS 82 Hz ELF transmitter. It requires a very large antenna. Location Murmansk. The Russians can communicate with subs all over the world.
Why don’t you all behave.

jmorpuss
Reply to  Zeke
December 23, 2014 2:23 pm

Australia plays it part in global surveillance and sub communications http://www.colinandrews.net/HAARP.html

Reply to  jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 2:34 pm

I think there are plenty of websites where you can talk about that. Aren’t there, jmorpuss?
Here, it is against site policy; and also, if you stop to think about it, it is not very considerate since AW is on a trip, and has allowed a free comment system.

Reply to  Zeke
December 23, 2014 2:43 pm

Actually, I was working on an American system…

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 2:48 pm

In ELF using the grid?

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 2:49 pm

Not much can be revealed. We were suggesting using PG&E’s California grid back then some 40+ years ago

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 3:08 pm

You cannot discuss your success. Or lack of it.
There are ELF frequencies in Europe which sound like robotic, cow, owl, and siren signals, but they do not occur out in the country side. They only near pipe grids, etc. etc. I genuinely thought they could be naturally occurring. Well that is a mystery.

Reply to  lsvalgaard
December 23, 2014 4:02 pm

Sad but true, it all started at Wardenclyffe and ended with New York’s hungry pigeons.

jmorpuss
December 23, 2014 2:54 pm

At some stage Zeke the truth will come out. And Anthony’s site is about relaying the truth not like some other propaganda sites like the jokers over at Skeptical Science
Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented.

eyesonu
December 25, 2014 9:32 am

Leif,
If you are still hanging around here I want to thank you for your links in a comment above. As a result I have been doing a lot of reading.
I don’t know the answers to a lot of things I’ve read but I appreciate the discussions presented on this thread.
One question that I have though. Has anyone considered that as the Earth has a magnetic and gravitation field and as with the case with the sun, could there be a similar case with something deeper “in space” that has not been quantified/qualified? The elliptical orbit of the Earth would suggest a strong possibility of a gravitational force “out there” somewhere. Magnetic fields and associated electrical fields have been discussed on this thread as well as elsewhere. Perhaps gravitational attraction/fields are all possibly related in some manner.
So many questions, and so little time from a limited perspective in one man’s lifetime.
Merry Christmas to all here and I look forward to your contributions in the New Year!

eyesonu
December 28, 2014 11:56 am

I wish to know more about the reason for the (+) charge on the dawn side of the magnetosheath vs the (-) charge on the dusk side. I am referring to the most interesting paper by you dated 1973 http://www.leif.org/research/Geomagnetic-Response-to-Solar-Wind.pdf I am currently looking at figure 4 (a) and (b).
Some questions: 1) Is this entirely the result of the solar wind and why? 2) Does the effect of the Earth orbit around/through the sun’s interplanetary magnet field cause/affect this polarization of the charge? Please elaborate to resolve where you may feel I am losing the plot here if that may be the case. There are others but I just wanted to get this post out before the thread closes. I have spent a week trying to fully grasp what’s happening.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 28, 2014 1:01 pm

Section 1 of http://www.leif.org/research/suipr699.pdf explains how the charges are distributed. The Earth’s orbit has nothing to do with the process that relies only on the solar wind interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field.
‘What is light’ has been explained many times. Google the question and you will see.

eyesonu
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 29, 2014 7:04 am

Leif,
Thank you for responding. With regards to the structure of the charge in the magnetosphere, the question that I haven’t been able to grasp is: why is the positive charge located at the dawn side of the earth?
As far as the light issue, the more I read the more it seems no one else really knows. I’m still stuck on a spiral trajectory of particles or energy packets. With spiral trajectories and those possibly overlapping/interlocking (in a sense, think spiral wound springs meshed together or in very close proximity with the spiral of the spring being the trajectory of photon) between individual rays could possibly explain the ability of light seeming to bend around an obstacle as particle repulsive charge/energy after passing a barrier may be the mechanism for that. Hell I don’t know, just a thought that keeps bouncing around in my head for years.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 29, 2014 9:28 am

Charged particles [solar wind] traveling through a magnetic field [Earth’s] are deflected, positive charged one way and negative charges the opposite way. Given the directions of the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field leads to positive charges being deflected towards the dawn side [Figure 1 of my link]. A much more technical explanation can be found here: http://www.leif.org/EOS/JA078i031p07292.pdf
Light does not travel in a spiral [except near a black hole]. And light is a well-understood phenomenon. [Please] read up on the subject.

eyesonu
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 29, 2014 9:31 pm

Thanks for the link. I’ll need to read it again when time allows.

eyesonu
December 28, 2014 12:18 pm

Leif,
I have been following the link you offered to http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/Intro.html . It is an excellent source and so many related links within leading to others and that has kept me occupied for a week.
So many links and then ‘google’ expansions has somehow led me to the question I have of “What is light?” I have followed many ‘google’ links and currently have 7 open tabs on the subject. There seems to be some question as the whether light is a particle or if it is a wave. I have some idea that it is both. Perhaps particles traveling in a spiral trajectory being influenced by forces of gravity, magnetism, and charge attraction and repulsion all at the same time. Is there a good source to review the discussion/research on this? Note that I’m way past the discussion of the spectrum of wavelengths.
The question of “what is light” has plagued me for years so any help answering this would be greatly appreciated.

jmorpuss
Reply to  eyesonu
December 30, 2014 12:32 pm

“What is light “? Photons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon

eyesonu
Reply to  jmorpuss
December 30, 2014 6:25 pm

Thanks for your reply and link. I have read about half way thru and can see that following related links are going to take more time than this thread will be active. Hope another thread here will activate this discussion on light.
For now, I have only a couple of days to fill the freezer with venison so I gotta eat.

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