(CNN) – The Northern lights It can totally be described as the greatest light show on Earth. This unique phenomenon in the highest latitudes has fascinated and amazed scientists for centuries.
Experts have theorized about the causes of the aurora borealis but haven’t been able to prove it – until now.
Finally, the mystery of the Great Dawn is solved
A group of physicists from Iowa State University recently showed that “the brightest auroras are caused by strong electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms.” According to a recently published study.
The study shows that these phenomena, also known as Alvin waves, speed electrons toward Earth, causing the particles to produce the light we know as the aurora borealis.
“Measurements revealed that this small group of electrons has a ‘buzzing acceleration’ by the electric field of an Alfvn wave, similar to a surfer picking up a wave and continuing to accelerate as it moves along with the wave,” said Greg Howes. Associate professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and co-author of the study.
The theory of “surfing” of electrons in an electric field was first proposed in 1946 by Russian physicist Lev Landau, and he called it Landau damping. His theory has now been proven.
They managed to recreate the aurora borealis
Scientists have understood for decades how the aurora is likely to form, but now for the first time they have been able to simulate it in a lab at the large plasma instrument at the University of California’s Basic Plasma Science Facility.
Scientists used a 20-meter camera to recreate Earth’s magnetic field using the magnetic field coils in the UCLA instrument. Inside the chamber, scientists have produced plasma similar to that found in space near Earth.
“Using a specially designed antenna, we threw Alfvén waves down the machine, as if we were rocking the garden hose up and down quickly and watching the wave move along the hose,” said Howes. When they began to see electrons “surfing” along the wavelength, they used another specialized instrument to measure how these electrons derive energy from the wave.
Although the experiment did not recreate the colorful glow we see in the sky, “our measurements in the lab clearly match predictions from computer simulations and mathematical calculations, showing that electrons surfing in Alfvén waves can accelerate electrons (up to more than 72 million km)/h caused the aurora,” Howes said.
“These experiments allow us to make key measurements that show that spatial and theoretical measurements in fact explain an important way aurora formations,” said study co-author Craig Klitzing.
This finding may help to better understand the climate in space.
Space scientists across the country rejoiced at this news. “I was so excited! “It’s very rare to see a lab experiment validating a theory or model about the space environment,” said Patrick Cohn, a scientist in NASA’s Heliophysics Division. “The area is too large to easily simulate in the lab,” he explained.
Kuhn believes that being able to understand the mechanism of accelerating electrons that cause the aurorae will be useful in many future studies.
“It helps us better understand the climate in space. The electron acceleration mechanism verified by this project works in other parts of the solar system, so it will find many applications in space physics. It will also be useful,” Kuhn said in an email to CNN. in predicting space weather, which is something that NASA is very interested in.”
There is a long way to go
Now that the theory of how the aurora is formed has been proven, there is still a long way to go to predict how strong each storm will be.
“Predicting how strong a given geomagnetic storm will be based on observations of the Sun and spacecraft measurements between Earth and the Sun remains an unresolved challenge,” Howes said in an email.
He added, “We have created the association of electrons surfing in Alfn waves at an altitude of 16,000 km above the Earth’s surface, and now we must learn how to predict the strength of those Alfn waves using observations from spacecraft.”