High-speed passages between the Earth and the sun that open up every eight minutes? No, it’s not a figment of science fiction. Scientists have confirmed that these portals, known as flux transfers events (FTEs), occur surprisingly often.
David Sibeck, a space scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center who presented the new findings at the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Alabama, describes FTEs as “brief, bursty, and very dynamic.” When the sun-facing side of Earth’s magnetosphere overlaps with the sun’s, a magnetic cylinder about as wide as the Earth connects the 150 millions kilometers between Earth and the sun. The portal stays open for about 15 to 20 minutes and multiple portals can form at once. Inside FTEs, high-energy particles to zoom through easily and particles from the sun provide an influx of energy for the Earth’s magnetosphere (also called its magnetic field, which has a stronger attractive force than gravity.)
Spacecraft from NASA and the European Space Agency have been studying FTEs and have even flown through them, but scientists are still scratching their heads over why the portals form every eight minutes.
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