Illustration of how material ejected from the Sun interacts with the magnetic field of the Earth. Credit: NASA
“The Earth’s magnetic field protects life on the surface from the full impact of these solar outbursts,” says John Foster, associate director of MIT’s Haystack Observatory. “Reconnection strips away some of our magnetic shield and lets energy leak in, giving us large, violent storms. These plasmas get pulled into space and slow down the reconnection process, so the impact of the sun on the Earth is less violent.”
Foster says the observations from space validate measurements from the ground. What’s more, the combination of space and ground-based data give a highly detailed picture of a natural defensive mechanism in the Earth’s magnetosphere.